What needs to be done to make sure that the rights of people with disabilities are respected, so they can fully participate in society?
On European Disability Day on 3 December, let us look back at the ideas and solutions discussed during the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021.
The Forum put a spotlight on how the Coronavirus pandemic hit people with disabilities particularly hard.
Elham Youssefian, a disability advocate, highlighted: “Covid-19 revealed how people with disabilities and disability rights as such are yet to be included in emergency responses at the national level.”
She stressed that the rights of people with disabilities need to be better included in any future measures and recovery plans.
“Disability rights are human rights,” she declared.
Many speakers highlighted the lack of accessible animation.
Tytti Matsinen from the European Blind Union talked about how measures to tackle the pandemic have created more barriers for blind people.
And how lack of accessible information continues to be challenging for many.
“The lack of accessible information is a massive challenge. Especially in times of crisis, accessibility reveals its true value. For blind or partially sighted people, digital accessibility became indispensable as soon as the pandemic started,” Matsinen said.
She too called for better involvement of people with disabilities in crisis management and recovery plans.
But it is not just the Coronavirus response where more efforts are needed to fully respect the rights of people with disabilities. It is technology too.
“Mobile devices have become very dear to all of us. A lot of life is online”, said Sabine Lobnig of the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI).
“But 23% of all people with disabilities never go online. That means they cannot fully participate in modern society. And full participation is a human right.”
The GARI project is trying to tackle this challenge by improving access to information for people with disabilities.
Mia Ahlgren from the European Disability Forum echoed this sentiment: “Meaningful and active participation in decision making is a clear right. Innovative technologies have played a huge role to include persons with disabilities in society.
But there are dangers too.”
Ahlgren stressed that there is a great imbalance of power when it comes to technology.
“People with power who decide on design and use of the technologies are not aware about the risks regarding discrimination of people with disabilities,” she declared.
It is clear that the future will require significant change to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are fully respected.
One of the goals of the new EU Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 is to ensure that people with disabilities can take part in all areas of life, just like everyone else.
Launching the strategy this year, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourová said: “The protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has to be at the centre of our efforts, including in our response to the coronavirus.”
Member of the European Parliament David Lega concluded: “We have to create a society where no one is held back but also no one is left behind.”
Are you interested in learning more about the topics discussed at the Forum?
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Simply click on the session you are interested in watching in the programme.
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We will be publishing more information about the Forum outcomes soon.