The EU promotes the active inclusion and full participation of disabled people in society, in line with the EU human rights approach to disability issues. Disability is a rights issue and not a matter of discretion. This approach is also at the core of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which the EU is a signatory.
Its objectives are pursued by actions in eight priority areas:
1. Accessibility : make goods and services accessible to people with disabilities and promote the market of assistive devices.
2. Participation : ensure that people with disabilities enjoy all benefits of EU citizenship; remove barriers to equal participation in public life and leisure activities; promote the provision of quality community-based services.
3. Equality : combat discrimination based on disability and promote equal opportunities.
4. Employment : raise significantly the share of persons with disabilities working in the open labour market. They represent one-sixth of the EU's overall working-age population, but their emplooyment rate is comparatively low.
5. Education and training : promote inclusive education and lifelong learning for students and pupils with disabilities. Equal access to quality education and lifelong learning enable disabled people to participate fully in society and improve their quality of life. The European Commission has launched several educational initiatives for disabled people. These include the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education as well as a specific study group on disability and lifelong learning.
6. Social protection : promote decent living conditions, combat poverty and social exclusion.
7. Health : promote equal access to health services and related facilities.
8. External action : promote the rights of people with disabilities in the EU enlargement and international development programmes.
The Commission also supports the Academic Network of European Disability experts (ANED), which provides the Commission with analysis of national situations, policies and data. ANED also manages the Online Tool that provides an overview of the key instruments in the Member States and the EU needed for the implementation of the UNCRPD. The creation of the Tool is one of the actions foreseen in the List of Actions (2010-2015) accompanying the European Disability Strategy.