On 13th December, MEP Anne-Sophie Pelletier (The Left), as rapporteur, put forward a draft report “Towards the Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities” to the European Parliament. The report (a motion for a resolution – when a proposal is put forward to the European Parliament for a resolution which is a call to action on a particular area) was passed by the European Parliament with flying colours (526 votes in favour), and the report was adopted!
When MEP Pelletier began presenting her report in French sign language, she was told that there was no interpretation from French sign language and was then directed to use “one of the official languages of the EU”. This was not only an embarrassing moment for the European Parliament, as the EU should have officially recognised all its national sign languages already, as they are obliged to under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), just as its Member States have already done so, but this also acted as a clear demonstration of the barriers persons with disabilities still face and the lack of accessibility of daily life. This course of action by MEP Pelletier was also of particular importance for EUD and the work we are undertaking to advocate for the EU to officially recognise all its national sign languages at EU level. Our recent position paper outlines our position on this.
In line with the ‘nothing about us without us’ principle, the report was developed with civil society and persons with disabilities and is broken into several topics. For instance, under the topic of Equality and non-discrimination, the report calls for an “urgent need for a horizontal anti-discrimination directive”. Here, aligning with EUD’s position on this topic, the Rapporteur emphasises the importance of the harmonisation of EU law with the UN CRPD to ensure equality and non-discrimination. Accordingly, the report urges the “forthcoming Council to unblock the horizontal directive on equal treatment.” Indeed, persons with disabilities in the EU will continue to face obstacles to achieving their full enjoyment of their rights until the EU adopts non-discrimination legislation at EU level.
Importantly, the report also includes a section on participation in political and public life where the Rapporteur expresses that she “Strongly believes that breaking down barriers by promoting and adopting every possible alternative language, such as easy-to-read language, Braille and sign language, would be a major step towards enabling persons with disabilities to genuinely participate in political and public life.” EUD fully supports this statement and will continue to advocate for the full recognition of the EU’s national sign languages at EU level.
This year, EUD will work closely on the EU Disability Card and has provided feedback to the European Commission’s call for evidence before its expansion to all EU Member States (as to date it has only taken place as a pilot project in 8 Member States). EUD holds the position that it is of utmost importance that there is a need to extend the benefits of the EU Disability Card beyond its current scope (sport, leisure, culture) and that the Card should be based on binding EU legislation. Therefore, it is encouraging to see that the report also includes both of these recommendations.