On 28-29 November, a COFACE Families Europe delegation attended the European Day of Persons with Disabilities, hosted in Brussels by the European Commission and the European Disability Forum. The Delegation was composed of COFACE staff, Gaetano Santonocito, Director of AIAS Monza, and Jose Luis Aedo, President of FIAPAS.
The conference represents the opportunity for the EU to mainstream disability issues and to raise awareness of the everyday- life challenges faced by persons with disabilities and their families. Politicians, high-level experts and self-advocates discussed the challenges, the solutions and the projects for improving policies dedicated to persons with disabilities.
Marco Migliosi, from the Commission and Katerina Mantouvalou from ICF, presented the preliminary findings of the public consultation on the European disability strategy 2010-2020 (the Strategy). Lack of understanding and of political will, were highlighted as main factors hindering the implementation of the Strategy; and as key success factors the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD) legal and political impact and the advocacy work made by NGOs. Most respondents also highlighted the inadequacy of the funding provided to implement the strategy. For what concerns the future, respondents identified accessibility, ageing and disability, children with disabilities and their families and independent living as key issues where the future Strategy should focus on.
Also COFACE Families Europe responded to the consultation on the European Disability Strategy, asking for a comprehensive and well-funded post-2020 European disability strategy that continues supporting persons with disabilities and their families, that informs and raises awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities and their families; that includes a plan on the rights of family carers, with actions towards, their recognition, social protection, social inclusion, respite and right to choice, according to the European Charter for Family Carers; that looks at to the needs of children with disabilities and their and promotes inclusive education, starting from early child education and care; and goes further in ensuring that EU funds are not invested in the construction or refurbishment of institutional care settings and in funding the transition to community-based care.
During the panel discussion with NGOs, also Milan Sverepa, Director of Inclusion Europe the European network representing persons with intellectual disabilities and their families, highlighted that the new strategy needs a clear recognition of the role of families in supporting people with disabilities to live independent lives, as family members provide the majority of the support and care to people with disabilities.
The Conference is also the moment to unveil the winner of the annual Access City Award, launched in 2010 to raise awareness of the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, and to promote accessibility initiatives in European cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants. The award is given to the city that has demonstrably improved accessibility in fundamental aspects of city living, and that has concrete plans for further improvements. The winner of the 2020 is Warsaw, for involving people with disabilities and accessibility needs in its attempt to make the city more accessible in a demonstrable short period of time. The second and third places went to the city of Castelló de la Plana in Spain and the city of Skellefteå in Sweden, respectively.
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