30 June 2011 - Yesterday, the European Disability Movement (EDF) met with Vice President of the European Commission, Siim Kallas responsible for Transport. EDF wants to make sure persons with disabilities are not discriminated anymore when boarding a plane or otherwise travelling in Europe.

Stig Langvad, EDF Executive Member, recalled that passengers with disabilities do not only face considerable barriers when travelling: “we are repeatedly discriminated against: This is inacceptable. When I book a plane, even months in advance, I am still not sure I am going to reach my final destination. I don’t even know if I am going to board. For persons with disabilities, travelling in Europe is still a challenge” This severely infringes the right to free movement in Europe and often makes travelling difficult or even impossible. Accessibility to transport is one of the disability movement’s priorities. It also has to be a priority for the European Commission.

This is why the discussion focused on 4 Commission initiatives:

New Multiannual Financial Framework

Transport is one of the only areas for which a budget increase is foreseen in the Commissions’ proposal for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014 - 2020. This must be seen as an opportunity to improve accessibility of transport infrastructure in Europe. Commissioner Kallas must ensure that this increased budget does not have the consequence of increasing barriers for persons with disabilities. In yesterday’ meeting, Siim Kallas agreed to pay attention that the transport funding includes an accessibility perspective.

A necessary law enforcement to ensure everyone is flying high in Europe’s sky

This important point on the agenda refers to the very topical issue of air passenger rights. Earlier this year, EDF reported on the discrimination of persons with disabilities by airlines. Most companies are still denying passengers boarding on the grounds of their disability, incorrectly claiming this is due to ‘health and safety’.

EDF wants to make sure that the guidelines on the implementation of this Regulation are clear and non-discriminatory to end the incorrect use of this law. This is urgent. The European Commission has to guarantee freedom of movement for persons with disabilities in Europe. During the meeting, Kallas encouraged the disability movement to report complaints on the grounds of discriminations.

Destination unknown: the White Paper on Transport

During the consultation phase preceding the adoption of the White Paper on Transport, EDF highlighted the key concerns from a disability perspective. Here, EDF made a valuable contribution, with numerous suggestions so that all passengers can use all modes of transport on an equal footing. Yet the disability movement is disappointed that their voice did not sufficiently resonate in the end result, which rather focused on sustainability, without recognizing that accessibility, is an essential part of this.

Rail accessibility: the EU must stay on track

Regarding the technical specifications on rail accessibility (TSI PRM), EDF initially praised this initiative only to find that the ensuing processes lacked inclusiveness and transparency. Even more discerning is the missing timeframe for implementation. More importantly, the numerous exceptions weaken its impact. Therefore, EDF has concrete expectations to the revision process of this legislation, which began this year. The legislation must live up to the accessibility requirements under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the European Union. In response to an EDF request, Commissioner Kallas confirmed that setting up harmonized requirements for rail accessibility is the way forward to improve the lives of 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe.

Background Information:

EDF response to the public consultation on air passenger rights

EDF media release following the air passenger discrimination case

Key demands from the disability movement for European transport policy

EDF position on the revision and scope of TSI PRM (rail transport)


Source: EDF Media release