Each year, the European Commission organises its European Day of Persons with Disabilities conference (EDPD). This year, it took place from November 30th and Friday 1st of December 2023. The event included presentations from disability advocates, delegates from the EU Commission, and organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs).
The theme of the EDPD 2023 was the right to vote and run for elections, with a specific focus on the 2024 European elections. The discussions aimed to tackle barriers to the political involvement of individuals with disabilities. Within the first panel discussion, EUD President, Ms Sofia Isari, made an intervention to emphasize that deaf people confront significant legal and administrative barriers due to inadequate funding for national sign language interpreters and insufficient awareness regarding the recognition of national sign languages as full languages.
Further on, the event delved into the skills and employment of individuals with disabilities and strategies to diminish the Disability Employment Gap in Europe. A highly insightful and relevant presentation was given by Mr Jakub Hrkal, Statistical officer at Eurostat. Mr Hrkal discussed the implementation of EUROSTAT’s strategy for data collection on disability during 2021-2030. Importantly, he highlighted that disability disaggregation is provided for in all 7 social surveys coordinated by Eurostat. Furthermore, this will also include information on the type of disability and on the barriers they face. There will also be improved dissemination of new statistics on disability, e.g. datasets such as disability prevalence (2023); income and living conditions (2023); and access to communication and information technologies (2023). Finally, Mr Hrkal indicated that Eurostat will be launching a new website on disability statistics in the coming weeks. EUD will follow this closely as it has continually called for the further data collection on deaf people in the EU.
During this panel discussion, EUD Board member, Mr Paal Richard Peterson, intervened, stressing the importance of making upskilling opportunities accessible in national sign languages and advocated for disaggregated data collection based on disability type e.g. deaf people.
EUD eagerly anticipates the next edition of the EDPD in 2024. As the EU Commission prepares its next flagship initiatives for the EU Disability Rights Strategy from 2025-2030, EUD calls for one of these to include that the EU institutions must grant legal recognition to its 30 national sign languages at the EU level, on an equal footing with its spoken languages. This would give this essential action the political priority is deserves at the EU level. Only then, will deaf EU citizens be able to fully enjoy their rights in line with the CRPD.
It’s important to mention that this year’s EDPD was unique as it took place during the EU Parliament’s first ever Disability Rights Week. During this week, the Parliament hosted a number of disability-focused meetings, hearings and events. EUD attended a few of these including the FEMM committee’s hearing on harmful practices in the EU towards women and girls with disabilities, the EMPL committee’s discussion the EU Disability Card, and the FEMM vote on the EU Disability Card draft opinion. You can read more about this significant week here.