Main points made by the presenters:
The EU Disability Card: experiences and suggestions of the deaf community
Mr Alvaro Couceiro
Policy Officer at the European Disability Forum (EDF).
Mr Couceiro provided a general overview of the work of EDF on the EU Disability Card (EDC) and on the main goals that the disability community should aim to achieve:
- The EDC represents a fundamental tool to recognize disabilities in the same way among all EU member states. Mr Cuoceiro didn’t go into details for what it concerns the disability assessment but assured that EDF is doing a broad work also on that.
- For EDF, the EDC should allow the recognition of disability at EU level both for travel in short terms (tourism) and for long term. The lack of recognition of disability hinders not only people with disabilities’ right to freedom of movement but also their European citizenship status as they are not recognized at the same level of EU citizens without disabilities.
- EDF aims to have an EDC that covers all services already covered at the national level. This means that, when travelling, people with disabilities will not need to go through another disability assessment in another country. Moreover, the Card should also provide benefits support; however, it is important that those benefits are implemented through accessibility measures.
- For what it concerns the format of the Card, EDF aims to have a Card with ID recognition and easy to carry. The Card should also have digital capabilities such as a QR code or a chip (more expensive but more secure). This would send to all needed information. Moreover, the Card would be fully accessible and would explain when a person needs personal assistance. Through a small mark or symbol in the Card, this could be possible.
- The EDC would help all EU Member States that still do not have a national disability card. In addition, the EDC would help with protecting private information on the status of disability as it would avoid the imposition of carrying personal documents when travelling. EDF is asking for the highest level of security concerning the information that the Card holds.
- For what it concerns communication, EDF wants the Commission to put funding in communication and awareness raising. Moreover, the Commission should produce an EDC website divided for each Member State in all national languages. Persons with disabilities need to be able to access information in the most accessible possible way.
- The Commission is planning to change the European Parking Card (EPC) current legislation – which is actually more of a recommendation and therefore there are many differences across Member States. EDF agrees to have a better regulation, but they also specifically said that the EDC should not be merged with the EPC. This is for practical reasons.
- The Card will be voluntary measure: to access services you will need it but it will be voluntary. It will be like a passport – not mandatory but needed if you want to travel to another country.
- EDF is asking for a regulation, a binding legislation but not recommendations or directive. Directive implies that Member States need to transpose it in their national system which mean several differences in the implementation, time and other.
- EDC will be important for invisible disabilities (like deafness) and, to ensure that every perspective is represented, EDF is asking to join its mobilization campaign to have a broad and inclusive card.
- EDC will not be an economic burden for Member States: it’s important that Member States understand what the Card is and what is not. EDF is available to meet and explain.
- Consultations on the Card are currently open (until May 5th 2023) and it’s important to give a strong answer in order to have a draft of the legislation for the EDC before the next European elections.
Ms Helga Stevens:
Former European parliamentary and member of the deaf community.
Ms Stevens provided general information on the Card and how to promote the deaf perspective for this tool.
- The recognition of disability status and the allocation of related benefits are matters of national competence. Therefore, there are legal and linguistic barriers, making life harder for persons with a disability travelling to another EU country.
- A pilot initiative called the EU Disability Card was implemented in 2016-2018. It aimed to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and to support the voluntary mutual recognition of the disability status in eight participating Member States: Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, Romania, and Slovenia.
- the Card should provide access to certain disability benefits in the sectors of culture, leisure, sports and transport. National service providers in these sectors could voluntarily adhere to the Card’s scheme. This means that the package of benefits provided in each Member State depended on the number and type of participating service providers. Once they joined the Card’s scheme, service providers are obliged to offer the same benefits they provided to nationals with disabilities also to Cardholders from other participating Member States.
- It is not clear whether retail (shopping) falls under the definition of “leisure”? What about cafés and restaurants? And not all areas of life are covered, like hospitals and security and emergency services like police, fire brigade, and ambulance.
- the EDC can help you to show that you have a disability and have a right to ask for “reasonable accommodation”. For a deaf person that means he could ask for sign language interpretation, or other adapted means of communication.
- With few exceptions, the eligibility criteria to receive the Card are the same used to receive national benefits, thus people recognised as persons with disabilities according to national legislation may automatically receive the Card.
Ms Elisabeta Paraschiv
Vice President at the Romanian Union of the Deaf.
Ms Paraschiv provided Romanian experience in the pilot project of the Card.
- The information provided were collected among members of the Romanian Union of the Deaf.
- In Romania there was no national Card before the EDC, only papers that people had to carry with them.
- The Card works pretty well for cultural activities (such as cinemas and museums) but not very much for transportation (including local buses or international travels).
- The Card allowed deaf persons to travel to other countries and have access to similar benefits (for example in the cultural area). Nevertheless, it was sad that the Card was limited to only 8 countries.
- The Romanian government did not provide a lot of information and did not raise awareness about the Card. However, most of the Romanian deaf community is aware of the Card and they know that is of better use for some things (cultural areas against transports)
- Around 60% of young and elderly people have the Card while others do not have it because they do not want to travel. If people don’t have the EDC in Romania, they have another Card that is valid for only 3 years and then they have to repeat the process.
Mr Anton Petrič
Representative of the Slovenian Association of the Deaf.
- This Card was also mentioned in the Slovenian law which stated that if people had the EDC, then it should have promoted quality of living, easy transportation, easy access to culture, sport & leisure, and so on.
- Slovenia had a website about the EDC where you could see which service providers were available (48), the leisure events in which you could use the Card, and the Government tried to have this website in a mobile way.
- In museums now there are also people that can provide a guided tour using sign language.
- Data from 2022: over 60% of persons with disabilities has the Card. Who can get the Card? All people that have at least a disability of 70%, this was stated in the law.
- In Slovenia, people are very happy with the Card but not all EU countries have it. So it would be important to have it in all countries. In this way, for example, in airports you can have access to sign language. This is the case of Lufthansa which make discount if you are deaf. But this is not enough, deaf association need to lobby more.
- It was possible to access other countries like Germany if the Card was accepted on a national level. But this was true only in Berlin, not in München. Also, sometimes service providers do not accept the Card.
Ms Marie-Florence Devalet
Representative of the Belgian French-speaking Association of the Deaf
- Wallonia had its own disability card but it was not official in all Belgian federation.
- The introduction of the EDC allowed deaf persons to rely more on this Card. Moreover, the introduction of EDC made realize that there is the need to raise more awareness on the benefits and of its existence.
- The main problem of EDC is that there was no written information on which disability a person has. For the deaf community that sometimes is an issue; they want to be put that info on the card (that they are deaf) for reasons of accessibility for example if they meet people somewhere and there’s a language barrier if they just show the cards that’s disability for deaf people is the communication.
- we did lobby strongly for that because we thought it was important and the Belgian disability forum wanted to. It is still under going the lobby work of course for the cards we are also a member of the deaf language housing or association and we also put up this issue there that we want the disability stated on the card so that you will see the disability and other people say that they have the same problem for example the mental disability or with autism. This is also true for persons with multiple disabilities.
- A solution might be the QR code.
Representative of Flemish-speaking Association of the Deaf
- They supported EDF in the past for the EDC because people with disabilities still face many challenges.
- we didn’t have the card at that time or a card that shows that you have disability you do get papers from the governments but there’s no cards. So people in the wheelchair and other people with disabilities they do have the blue car sometimes can you show that on the yes do you have this specific card if you want to park.
- The EDC is helpful because it supports the matching of communication with other persons. This is true on several occasions: with police, airports and festivals.
- The areas covered by EDC need to be expanded
- The type of disability needs to be put on the Card
- Can the EDC include countries like Norway, Island or the UK? Helga said that the Commission cannot force these countries to have the Card but there can be agreements/discussions. Also these countries cannot request anything on the Card but we could know more only in the future.
- QR code is not always easy to read; Italian website for the information of the EDC is not well done; Helga said that the deaf community needs to think about the proposal of a EDC which respects privacy but also ensures access to benefits. For what it concerns national awareness and information of the EDC, it is the national government’s responsibility to be more active and to promote further involvement of service providers.
- If I am from a country where the EDC has not been implemented yet and I move to another country where the EDC is implemented, can I apply for that in the receiving country? Helga said that right now the EDC still need to have a legal proposal but, if the EDC can be legally drafted and approve by July 2024, all EU countries will have the Card.
- Can refugees from Ukraine have the Card? Helga said that if their disability status in the receiving country have been recognized than they should have access to the Card automatically.