On 28-29 November 2019, the European Commission together with the European disability forum organised the European day of persons with disabilities. As usual, such an event is a great opportunity to draw attention to the problems faced by people with disabilities on a daily basis. This year, the conference was also attended by many experts and politicians who joined the debate on the challenges facing people with disabilities. This year’s conference was also a kind of summary of public consultations related to the European disability strategy 2010-2020.

The conference took place in the building of the European Commission. The event started with a short opening panel. In this section we could hear general information about the conference from Joost Korte (Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), one of the speakers.

The first panel concerned the evaluation of European disability strategy 2010-2020. Many statistics were presented, which were prepared on the basis of consultation with institutions dealing with the issues of disabled people and the disabled themselves. Research shows that over the last 10 years, the situation of people with disabilities has improved, indicating the success of the plan started in 2010. Key factors contributing to the improvement were also identified: political and legal impact of the UN Convention of the Rights of people with disabilities, advocacy of interest groups and NGOs and awareness raising activities. The evaluation also showed what we should pay more attention to when preparing our strategy for the next few years: access to social services for disabled people and children and families with disabilities should be better supported. An important point in the future will be the implementation of strategies in several areas at the same time to make the process more efficient.

The second panel focused on the possibilities of improving the situation of people with disabilities, based on patterns developed in countries outside the European Union. One of the speakers was Ben Gauntlett, who deals with the rights of people with disabilities in Australia. Using the example of the National Disability Strategy, a piece of legislation introduced in recent years in Australia to improve the situation of people with disabilities, he showed how the living conditions of these people have changed. Particular attention should be paid here to special health insurance, which has proved to have a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities. This was followed by a video in which Yazmine Laroche presented the situation of people with disabilities in Canada. The government has introduced the Accessible Canada Act because there was a major problem with the employment of people with disabilities in the country. Within the framework of this project, zones have been designated as most challenging for the disabled, such as infrastructure, transport and access to information.

After the lunch break, it was time for the second part of the conference. It focused on the expectations towards the European Union in the area of the rights of disabled people. At the beginning of the panel, the video of three individual representatives of the three key groups of the European Parliament was displayed. The speeches concerned the future action plans of these parties on the problems of people with disabilities. Then the speakers pointed out what can be improved in the future as regards the rights of people with disabilities. Among other things, attention was drawn to the need for more frequent consultations with the disabled. However, not everything needs to be changed, there is much that can be done to keep working on and improve many things. The areas that can still be improved are certainly awareness-raising and digital accessibility. A lot of time was also devoted to the topic of cooperation of all european institutions. With their jointly developed action plan, the situation could improve quicklyer. It is not financial issues that are important here, but political will.The next panel was a debate with NGOs and was significantly linked to the previous one, therefore many issues were discussed again.

The next day the panel entitled “How to achieve Sports for All” started. One of the speakers was David Lega, MEP and Paralympic champion. He shared his experiences of how he coped with his disability and where he drew his energies to work on himself. According to him, one of the most important things for everyone to be able to achieve their goals in sport is mental support and the inner will to win; these factors helped him a lot in achieving what he won. Very interesting in this part was also a video about the gymnastics of disabled people. It showed the cooperation of volunteers with Paralympians in one of the German organizations, which helps the disabled in sports and social issues.

At the end of this panel there was a summary of the whole event and conference conclusions. It was a really exciting event full of new and interesting information. However, what seems to be most important is that the situation of disabled people is improving.

If you’d like to watch whole the conference check links below:
28th November: https://webcast.ec.europa.eu/the-european-day-of-persons-with-disabiliti…
29th November: https://webcast.ec.europa.eu/the-european-day-of-persons-with-disabiliti…