The conference began with the opening session in which the Disability and Inclusion Head of Unit, Alison Crabb, offered the opening speech, followed by Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner for Equality. She emphasized the importance of employment among people with disabilities and the existing gap on disability employment. Because of this gap, 1 in 3 people with disabilities are on the brink of poverty, particularly in these challenging times. During the speech, she presented the European Accessibility Act, a directive that aims to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services, by removing barriers created by divergent rules in Member States. For more info regarding this topic, please click here.
Following Helena Dalli, president of the European Disability Forum, Ioannis Vardakastanis, spoke about the high cost of living for persons with disabilities, unemployment among them and asked European institutions to address the specific situations of persons with disabilities in the context of this crisis. He introduced the European Disability Card which will provide an easy, physical way to recognise disability status when traveling in the EU – and some associated benefits, usually on cultural, sports and leisure activities. Currently, the Card is a pilot project in 8 EU Countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, Romania and Slovenia), but the European Commission will present a proposal to expand it in 2023. Details and the timeline for the proposal are still to be confirmed. For more information regarding the European Disability Card, please click here.
At the end of the opening ceremony, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs from Czech Republic, Martina Štěpánková promoted the inclusion of persons with disabilities and stated her recommendations for member states about the labor market issues faced by persons with disabilities.
The opening session was followed by a discussion in which four young people with disabilities shared their stories and the difficulties they had to face because of their disabilities. After everybody shared their experience, followed a session of questions and answers in which the invited speakers took an active role in answering.
These two days were abundant in information and beneficial for everybody interested in the disabilities framework. The entire conference has been recorded, so you can access the first day streaming video and the second day streaming video.