Last March, the Board of EDF expressed its strong commitment to a united Europe and our hope that the UK would remain within the EU. It is with regret today that we recognize that UK citizens voted for the UK to leave the European Union (EU) with a majority of 52%. The European Disability Forum (EDF) recognizes the democratic right of British people to decide freely on this issue, but we strongly believe that a common EU human rights agenda is better achieved together. The tone of the UK campaign, which was characterized by a divisive public debate on migration, reminds us of what is at stake and what we need to fight for, within a strong EU: common values of non discrimination, human rights and freedom of movement.
Since its beginning, over 20 years ago, EDF has promoted solidarity among persons with disabilities throughout the European continent and globally. The fight for human rights is a common struggle. EDF will continue to promote unity and solidarity within the disability movement all across Europe and will work very decisively on our common values against Euroscepticism, xenophobia, racism and all kinds of discrimination. From this, we won’t exclude any people with disabilities or their organisations because of political choices. We will collaborate with all organisations of persons with disabilities in Europe, including the UK, to ensure that Europe does not lose sight of the importance of human rights of all of its people: women, men, children, older people, persons with disabilities and people on the move across Europe and on our borders.
WHAT HAS THE EU DONE FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES?
Discrimination and inequalities persist in the EU. However, there have also been achievements throughout the years that create a stronger legal basis for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the EU. Some examples of EU initiatives that have had a direct positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities include:
- EU funds represent an important source of public funding for many EU Member States. Numerous projects and initiatives promoting non-discrimination, accessibility, equality and inclusion in EU Member States including the UK, have been funded directly by EU funds.
- The EU Bus Directive obliged EU Members States to change their national legislation and to offer their citizens accessible buses which allow wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility to use them.
- The EU Air Passengers’ Regulation for passengers with disabilities established a set of specific rights for passengers with disabilities in the EU. This legislation has facilitated air travel for millions of persons with disabilities in Europe and has given clear guidance to airports on what services should be provided and how.
- The EU institutions recently reached an agreement on the EU Directive on the Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ Websites. This Directive foresees that all public sector bodies’ websites and mobile applications (apps) in the EU will be made accessible, including the electronic documents and multimedia. This is a milestone to achieve an inclusive digital society, in which 80 million people with disabilities in the EU won’t be excluded.
- The EU Directive on E qual Treatment in Employment and Occupation adopted in November 2000 prohibits any discrimination in employment on grounds of disability, religion and belief, age and sexual orientation. This resulted in new anti-discrimination laws in the Member States protecting persons with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace in European countries. It also means that persons with disabilities can defend themselves in court when they are discriminated and find redress by using this EU Directive.
- Last December, the EU published the proposal for a European Accessibility Act. The European Accessibility Act will harmonize existing accessibility laws and rules within the EU so that products and services can circulate freely on the EU internal market, and be accessible for persons with disabilities and other people with functional limitations. At the same time, the Act will improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities in the EU, by allowing them equal access to a greater range of mainstream products and services at a more competitive price.
- The EU has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). All its Member States except Ireland, have also ratified the CRPD. Member States are supported by the EU in implementing the CRPD by adopting disability-inclusive EU policies. The EU facilitates and promotes dialogue with the Member States on joint and coherent ways of implementing the CRPD across the EU.
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