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8.1.5. Policies and control tools

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8.1.5. Policies and control tools


Equality of opportunity is the objective of the European Union's long-term strategy on disability, which aims to enable disabled people to enjoy their right to dignity, equal treatment, independent living and participation in society. In the framework of its disability strategy2 the Commission promotes initiatives at EU and national level to identify and remove the various barriers in the economic and social environment that prevent people with disabilities from exercising their capabilities, as well as from enjoying equal opportunities and full participation in all aspects of life. The EU strategy is built on three pillars: (1) EU anti-discrimination legislation and measures, which provide access to individual rights; (2) eliminating barriers in the environment that prevent disabled people from exercising their abilities, and (3) mainstreaming disability issues in the broad range of Community policies which facilitate the active inclusion of people with disabilities.

The European Commission along with 22 Member States has signed the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities3. The convention itself covers a very broad range of areas such as employment, accessibility, education, freedom from exploitation, independent living and the right to be recognized as a person before the law. It refers also to such specific areas like statistics and data collection4. All these fields have undergone major change throughout Europe in the past decade, being strengthened by EU initiatives and actions, including development and improvement of statistical information (like surveys) that aim in monitoring the situation of people living with disabilities.

The European Commission adopted on 30th of October 2003 a Communication regarding the policy follow up to the European Year of People with Disabilities 2003. This Communication on "Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities: A European Action Plan"5 provides a reference point and framework for ensuring that disability issues and concerns are fully taken on board in all relevant EU policies. The first phase of the Action Plan (2004-2005) addressed the establishment of the conditions which are necessary to promote employment of people with disabilities in the open labour market. Better access to education and life-long learning, to the potential of new technologies, and physical access to the public built environment, in particular to the workplace, were all important employment-related areas identified as priorities for action during 2004-2005. The second phase of the Action Plan (2006-2007)6 focused on the active inclusion of people with disabilities. Based on the citizensconcept of disability7 it emphasises the need for an environment that enables disabled people to be more independent. The priorities for the actions under this phase of the action plan concentrate on encouraging activities, promoting access to quality support and care services, fostering accessibility of goods and services, and increasing the EU's analytical capacity. The third 2008-2009 phase of the action plan centres its attention on two strands of action. One strand refers to inclusive participation through accessibility, e.g. by fostering accessibility of the labour market, boosting accessibility of goods, services and infrastructures, and consolidating the European Commission's analytical capacity to support accessibility. The other strand relates to action towards full enjoyment of fundamental rights by facilitating the implementation of the UN Convention and completing the Community legislative framework of protection against discrimination. Progress will be regularly reviewed and new priorities identified for the period up to 2010.




2 Please see:

3 The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the United Nations' General Assembly on 13 of December 2006.

4 Article 31, paragraph 1 of the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities states that: States Parties undertake to collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to enable them to formulate and implement policies to give effect to the present Convention

5 COM(2003)650

6 COM(2005)604

7 EU Charter on Fundamental Rights, Article 26: "The Union recognises and respects the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community"