Leaders of the European Union institutions today came together for the first time with the European Disability Forum to discuss issues facing the estimated 80 million Europeans with disabilities.
Presidents José Manuel Barroso (European Commission), Jerzy Buzek (European Parliament), Herman Van Rompuy (European Council) as well as European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, met with pan-European representatives of the disabled community.
The European Commission adopted a comprehensive strategy last year to create a barrier-free Europe for disabled people by 2020 (IP/10/1505). The plan outlines how the EU and national governments can empower people with disabilities so they can enjoy their rights. Today's discussion focused on the progress made so far in implementing the strategy and how people with disabilities are being affected by the economic crisis.
Under the lead of Vice-President Reding, the Commission will put forward the European Accessibility Act in autumn 2012 to ensure that people with disabilities have access on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, to transport and to information and communication services. Accessibility is a precondition for persons with disabilities to be able to enjoy the rights enshrined in the UN Convention, the EU Treaty and the Charter for Fundamental Rights. The Commission will shortly launch a public consultation on accessibility issues to help prepare the initiative.