European Disability Strategy 2021 – 2030(1)

NEW Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030: Can it drive a societal SHIFT in Europe?

#EUDisabilityRights #BeTheSHIFT #UnionofEquality

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COFACE Families Europe and its COFACE Disability Platform for the rights of persons with disabilities and their families welcome the adoption by the European Commission of the European Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030 (EDRS) and the leadership taken by the European Commission, and Commissioner Dalli in particular, to foster equality in Europe. This new framework, which was published by the European Commission on 3rd of March 2021, marks an important step forward towards the implementation of the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) for persons with disabilities and their families in the EU.

This new strategy takes a whole new significance in the current context. The COVID-19 crisis brutally highlighted how far we are from fulfilling the promises of the UNCRPD in Europe: the consequences of lockdowns on support services, the huge burden on family carers and/or supports as a consequence of service closures yet completely “Forgotten” by public authorities, and the critical situation in institutions and the increased exclusion of persons with disabilities and their families are impossible to ignore.

The new strategy has been developed taking into account some of these realities, but not all. This extreme situation powerfully recalls the importance of a full and swift implementation of the UNCRPD and highlights the role of the EU in leading the transition for an inclusive, fair, equal and accessible society and economy. We recall in our S.H.I.F.T. guide with 45 actions, based on a mix of Support, Human rights, Independence, Families, societal Transitions, needed for the new strategy to have a transformative impact, and it is through this S.H.I.F.T. lens that we share our first reaction here.


Independent Living for all
We are particularly pleased to see the strong language around independent living, but recall the deep transformations required for a successful transition.

Family Carers must not be forgotten
In spite of the social recognition in the Strategy and the mention of the increasing use of personal budgets and financial support, including for carers, there is no mention of family carers in the initiative to launch a study on social protection systems in 2022. We call on the European Commission therefore to further study also the definitions, status and rights of family carers.

Inclusive Education for building inclusive societies
Inclusion is not only about inclusion of children with disabilities in the mainstream education system, but also requires a S.H.I.F.T. in practices, approaches and adaptations of the physical school environment, we need to work with families and professionals to change the mentalities.
As such we welcome the ambition of the new Strategy to support inclusive and accessible and inclusive education at all level, with a special focus on inclusive Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC).

Agency, awareness raising & participation
We call on the Commission to push their thinking further in the implementation and look at the importance of supported decision-making in all areas of life and recognising the role of families in supporting, promoting and safeguarding the right to choice. We commend the intention to raise awareness on disability, notably by including persons with disabilities and their families in every step of the policy making process.

Mainstreaming and accessibility
We welcome the expressed ambition to mainstream disability rights in policy making and funding. The societal change needed for the full inclusion of persons with disabilities and their families is only possible by taking a cross cutting approach, including their needs and rights in all relevant policies. We welcome the reiteration of the commitment to banning the use of EU funds in projects and actions that foster segregation and social exclusion.

We welcome the efforts to address intersecting grounds of vulnerability in the EDRS and applaud the work led by Commissioner Dalli to articulate the different inequalities covered by her portfolio by highlighting the additional barriers faced by women and girls with disabilities, old persons with disabilities, migrants and asylum seekers.

Definition, data gap& monitoring
We welcome alignment of the approach of disability in the Strategy with the UNCRPD putting forward the diverse realities faced by persons with disabilities and the social model. We note the increased attention paid to invisible disabilities but want to recall that invisibilisation is not only the absence of noticeable physical manifestations of disabilities but also the results of segregations and diversity-blind policies and programmes. Too often persons with intellectual, psycho-social, complex and severe disabilities are left behind.

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