EU celebrates European Day for People with Disabilities but challenges still lie ahead

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On the 3rd December the EU celebrated the Day of Persons with Disabilities,with a high level conference and the announcement of the winners of the Access City Award for 2015.

One in six people in the European Union – around 80 million – have a disability that ranges from mild to severe. Over one third of people aged over 75 have disabilities that restrict them to some extent. These numbers are set to rise as the EU population grows progressively older. Most of these people are all too often prevented from fully participating in society and contribute to the economy because of physical or other barriers, as well as discrimination. To tackle these challenges the EU is party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and has published in June the first report  on how the EU is giving effect to the UN Convention.

The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, adopted by the Commission in November 2010, sets a concrete agenda of actions to implement the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Strategy contains actions in the areas of accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health and external action. To realise the commitments of the Disability Strategy the European Commission is supposed to adopt a European Accessibility Act, which should improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services. Progress in this dossier has been slow during the Barroso II Commission and AGE hopes that President Juncker and Commissioner Thyssen will take considerable steps to adopt this important piece of legislation, which will help the inclusion of older people and persons with disabilities.

The 2014 conference commemorating the Day of persons with disabilities, focused on accessibility and employment, as important enablers for equal participation to society and growth. It moreover awarded the prize of Access City to the Swedish city of Borås for its comprehensive and strategic approach to creating an accessible city for all. AGE and its national experts have been involved in the process of selection of Access City Award.

The 3rd of December is an opportunity to recall the achievements but also the challenges lying ahead with regard to the application of the application of the UNCRPD by the EU and its Member States. AGE is particularly worried about the different schemes of protection depending on when disability occurs, as impairments acquired after legal retirement age are often treated less favourably by national legislation and social policies. This creates important barriers to older people's access to support and care.

This is why we are actively involved in a new project on the rights of older persons in care settings coordinated by the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, we call for the adoption of an ambitious EU equal treatment directive on acess to goods and services and we are engaged in the UN processes that discuss the human rights of older persons. Unless the EU Disability Strategy and national disability frameworks address the rights of older people in need of care and assistance, individuals who acquire age-related disabilities, such as people with dementia, will continue to face barriers in the equal enjoyment of their rights.

In the past AGE has coordinated the EUSTACEA and WeDO projects that delivered two EU-wide reference documents, the European Charter of the Rights and Responsibilities of Older People in Need of Long-Term Care and Assistance and the European Quality Framework for Long-Term Care Services. In 2014 we co-organised a high-level event and expert workshop around the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and we will continue to work on the intersection of age and disability in the course of 2015.

For more information you may contact Nena Georgantzi, Legal Officer

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