EUD Executive Director Mark Wheatley attended the Danish Presidency Disability Conference on 5 and 6 March 2012 in Copenhagen. The two-day conference focussed on accessibility and participation for people with disabilities and was organised by the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration. Speakers included MEP Ádám Kósa, Yannis Vardakastanis, the President of the European Disability Forum, and the Director for Equality at the European Commission, Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea. The Council of Europe was represented by the Head of the Integration of People with Disabilities Division, Thorsten Afflerbach. A number of political stakeholders and other representatives of the Disability Movement, including European NGOs, attended the important conference.
The conference was opened by Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, Commission representatives, and Ministers from Denmark, responsible for the Danish Presidency. MEP Ádám Kósa congratulated the Danish Presidency for taking up the topic of disability, which had been neglected by the previous Polish Presidency. EUD hopes that disability will be high on the agenda in the coming Presidencies.
Johan ten Geuzendam, the Head of Unit for the Integration of People with Disabilities presented the European Accessibility Act and explained that the Public Consultation that EUD had also answered had received over 600 responses. EUD expects that many responses came from the Deaf Community and the NADs and include sign language.
The conference also showcased the world’s most accessible building in Copenhagen, leaving attendants astounded and truly making them feel included.
One UK government representative stated that according to diversity figures there should be 65 disabled people in the UK Parliament. He strongly encouraged more disabled people to become involved in politics, especially with the UK’s new disability strategy. EUD would be very happy to see more Deaf sign language users in national Parliaments and also at European level.
Overall, the conference was a very positive sign of the Danish Presidency towards people with disabilities. EUD hopes that the Presidency will continue putting disability high on the agenda, pushing for both a European Accessibility Act and unblocking the Anti-discrimination Directive.
To find out more about the Danish Presidency click here: http://eu2012.dk/en
The full conference programme can be found here: http://www.accessibletourism.org/resources/dk-eu-presidency-2012-programme-of-the-conference.pdf