Equalization Strategy of People with Disab. - Y. Vardakastanis

Equalization Strategy of People with Disabilities

Yannis Vardakastanis, Rome April 5 2003
European Disability Forum, President

The European Disability Forum (EDF) is the umbrella organization of all disability organizations in the European Union. Our membership, comprising national and European disability organization, make us be the representative voice of disabled people in the EU, a fact that is being acknowledged by all relevant stakeholders.

The mission of EDF is to ensure that all EU initiatives promote the human rights of people with disabilities.

Back in 1999, the General Assembly of EDF decided to propose to the EU institutions to declare 2003 the European Year of People with Disabilities.

The purpose of the Year is to accelerate the paradigm shift in disability policies.

The Madrid Declaration adopted in March 2002 presents adequately the framework we would like to achieve.

Let me quote some slogans from this Declaration which are self-explanatory.

Let me start with the title: Non discrimination plus positive action results in social inclusion.

Today I will focus more on the first dimension, but I am a firm believer that non discrimination, while being of fundamental importance, will never be enough.

Disabled people want equal opportunities, not charity

Disability is a human rights issue

Nothing about us without us

Let me refer now to what is the most important initiative the European disability movement has ever tried to achieve

As you all know, article 13 of the EU Treaty provides the base for legal initiatives to combat discrimination, among others, of disabled people.

Since 2000 there is an EU directive combating discrimination and promoting equal treatment of disabled people in the workplace

An important directive, which is currently being implemented into national legislation.

But you will agree with me, that disabled people are not only discriminated in the workplace.

Disabled people are faced with barriers and therefore discriminated in many areas of life:  education and access to goods and services to name just two of them.

Therefore, EDF has been requesting since many years a comprehensive European anti discrimination legislation. We sometimes call it the European with Disabilities Act, recalling the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

To contribute to this request and in line with the proactive character of our organization, EDF has over the last two years prepared a proposal for a  EU anti discrimination directive

The process to arrive at this text has involved extensive consultation with our members and advice from renowned legal experts

The process itself has raised awareness and expectations among the disability movement on the potential of such legislation

Over the last four weeks, I have personally presented this proposal to the European Parliament and to the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs.

The support in the European Parliament and among other institutions and stakeholders exists, but I will not hide to you that it will not be an easy process to arrive at this directive and we need the mobilization of the disability movement in all European countries to get sufficient support and pressure for this process to get started.

We proposed the European Year to put disability on top of the political agenda.

The European Year will be a failure if we donÂ’t achieve results that will remain as a legacy of the European Year.

We have to ensure that during this European Year, the process towards this key contribution to the equal opportunities for disabled people is being launched.

Many thanks for your attention.