On the 12th of October, the EUD participated in a workshop on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities organised by the Petitions Committee (PETI) of the European Parliament. PETI plays an important role in the EU framework for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The workshop consisted of two panel sessions and a presentation of a new study on inclusive education.
Serge Ebersold, from the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education presented the study “Inclusive education for learners with disabilities.” It was explained that an inclusive education is a national theme/issue and its understanding varies among countries. Many countries understand inclusive education as their strong policy goal and therefore increase their spending on it despite financial constraints. It was emphasised that inclusive education is a response to increasingly complex and diverse societies and requires that diversity is seen as an asset to combine performance and equity. It moves away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ education model towards a tailored approach to education. Inclusive education requires schools to develop inclusive learning environments that are both universally accessible and adapted to each learner’s needs. Prof Ebersold explained that a trend towards inclusive education is rooted in development of personalised learning and flexible teaching strategies.
After the presentation, the first session focused on the developments relating to the UN CRPD from the EU perspective. An-Sofie, Human Rights Coordinator from the European Disability Forum (EDF) presented EDF’s activities with regards to the progress of the implementation of the CRPD on the EU level. Koen Roovers, from the Strategic Inquiries Unit of the Office of the European Ombudsman updated participants on the Ombudsman’s recent work relating to the rights of persons with disabilities. It was explained that the Ombudsman’s work is mainly driven by complaints concerning the EU institutions, agencies and bodies. Complaints related to disability are often submitted to the Ombudsman and concern a wide range of issues such as the accessibility of EU buildings, the accessibility of material on EU institutions’ websites, sign language interpretation at events, participation in recruitment competitions, and health insurance claims made on behalf of children with disabilities. Moreover, Inmaculada Placencia Porrero, Deputy Head of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Unit, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (EMPL), of the European Commission gave a presentation on the progress report on the European Disability Strategy. It was explained that the report aims at describing the progress achieved so far by the EU in the implementation of the European Disability Strategy and how it links to the recommendations made by the UN CRPD Committee in relation to the implementation of the UN Convention in the EU. Furthermore, Ms Porrero presented the next steps that will be taken by the EU. The EU will finalise the implementation of the European Disability Strategy as they committed to in 2010 and will use the European Disability Strategy to further implement the UN Committee’s recommendations. Moreover, the EU will start reflections on what has to happen after the 2010-2020 European Disability Strategy and will strengthen dialogue with Member States, civil society and other stakeholders who put forward their ideas for the future. European authorities will prepare another EU periodic report to the UN Committee, required in 2021 and will continue to mainstream disability in key policy developments and future EU actions.
The second session addressed legal and social protection for persons with disabilities. Zara Todd, Executive Director of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) highlighted that there are many barriers that people with disabilities face. For instance, inadequate social support, barriers in legal frameworks, poor budget allocations and lack of accessible mainstream services and facilities. Thomas Bignal, Policy Advisor from the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) emphasised that it is extremely important to promote effective and high quality service systems, in line with the UN CRPD, to empower persons with disabilities so they can take part in society on an equal basis, get equal access to health, education, employment, economic and cultural environments and live independently and have the freedom to make their own choices.
The workshop concluded highlighting that it is of fundamental importance to change the mind-set of key stakeholders. The EU must put inclusion at the highest point of the political agenda and further develop knowledge and expertise.