European Disability Card marks step towards barrier-free Europe

The free movement of persons is one of the basic rights guaranteed by the European Union to all its citizens. Still, people with disabilities are often prevented from traveling freely by the lack of recognition of their disability status, and by their inability to access services they would normally be entitled to in their home countries.
Fortunately, as a result of discussions with the disability movement, the European Commission is taking steps to remedy this situation by introducing a European Disability Card as a means to mutually recognise the rights and benefits of people with disabilities in the European Union Member States. The announcement was made by Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, at a European Parliament event on 30 June. “Mutual recognition of a person’s identity and status is an essential element of this right to free movement,” Thyssen said. “This counts in particular for people with disabilities,” she added.

The European Commission has pledged to allocate €1.5 million to support the 17 Member States that will pilot this initiative by early 2016. The European Disability Card will allow Europeans with disabilities access to the same benefits in the areas of culture, leisure, transport and sport at home and abroad.

While Inclusion Europe welcomes the European Commission’s initiative to introduce the European Disability Card, we hope that persons with intellectual disabilities will be able to truly benefit from it, as the Disability Card will only affect a small number of areas. However, we know that persons with intellectual disabilities face significant barriers in other matters related to free movement, such as accessing public services and information, education, employment, social and health services. Thus, we advise the European Commission to see the introduction of the Disability Card as only a first step, with a view to eventually expanding the scope of the Card and ensuring persons with disabilities can travel throughout the European Union on an equal basis with other European citizens.

Inclusion Europe is also urging those Member States that have not joined the initiative yet to commit to supporting the freedom of movement of their citizens with disabilities, and recognise the European Disability Card as a tool for equal treatment.

While the European Union has removed the physical barriers to free movement, its next challenge is breaking down the administrative ones as well. We are happy to see they are taking steps to make this happen.

For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Manager, at s.enculescu@inclusion-europe.org