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Persons with disabilities as a human capital: their contribution to the economy and society

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On the 20th June EUD participated at the public hearing ‘Persons with disabilities as a human capital: their contribution to the economy and society’. The hearing was organised by the European Economic Social Committee (EESC) and took place in Brussels.

The objective of the hearing was to discuss what policy changes are needed to allow persons with disabilities to maximize their contribution to economy and society and to find out what can civil society do to facilitate this process. During the discussion many outstanding speakers took floor.

The hearing was opened by Ellenes Schumer from the European Commission. Mrs Schumer works at the Directorate General Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (DG EMPL) at the Disability and Inclusion Unit and highlighted relevant European policies that, if properly implemented, could advance the position of people with disabilities in economy and society. People with disabilities are equally capable to perform as others, however they must be provided with an opportunity. In order to promote the need to provide opportunities, there are many initiatives on the European level – European Accessibility Act, European Disability Strategy, European Pillar of Social Rights, European Semester. Moreover, Mrs Schumer emphasised that it is absolutely crucial to move away from medical approach to disability to human rights approach and see people with disabilities as equal participants in the society that are capable of many things if given an opportunity. This is a key element to implement the UN CRPD and to enable people with disabilities to participate in economy and society on equal basis with others.

Catherine Naughton, Executive Director of the European Disability Forum, highlighted that it is crucial to focus on enforcement of existing legislation and provide funding for specific actions that support employment of people with disabilities. Furthermore, there must be an adequate social protection systems in place which have to be separated from income support in order to allow people with disabilities to participate in economy. New forms of employment and flexible arrangements would benefit people with disabilities while seeking employment too. Mrs Naughton added that Country Specific Recommendations that are made during the European Semester process must comply with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities in order to support the allocation of EU funding to working towards equal rights and opportunities of persons with disabilities n the EU. Mark Wheatley, Executive Director of EUD, added that the strong revision of the social security coordination revision that includes the coordination and portability of disability benefits is necessary to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their right to free movement and find work abroad.  

The public hearing was a great opportunity to exchange views on how to advance the situation of people with disabilities and how to increase their participation in economy and society. EUD will continue its work on ongoing European initiatives that have a potential to provide people with disabilities with more opportunities.

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