Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Persons with disabilities

Woman in a wheelchair talking with colleagues

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The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines persons with disabilities as ‘those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’.

Around 87 million people in the EU have some form of disability. Many persons with disabilities in Europe do not have the same chances in life as other people. Schools or workplaces, infrastructures, products, services and information are not all accessible to them. They may also be treated badly or unfairly.


  • Only half of persons with disabilities are employed compared to 3 in 4 persons without disabilities.
  • 28.4% of persons with disabilities are at risk of poverty or social exclusion compared to 17.8% of persons without disabilities. 
  • Only 29.4% of persons with disabilities attain a tertiary degree compared to 43.8% of those without disabilities.
  • 52% of persons with disabilities feel discriminated against.

Policy response

The EU and its Member States are committed to improving social and economic situation of persons with disabilities, building on the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

European Pillar of Social Rights 

Principle 17 of the European Pillar of Social Rights stresses that people with disabilities have the right to income support that ensures living in dignity, services that enable them to participate in the labour market and in society, and a work environment adapted to their needs.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The European Union and all its Member States are party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This important treaty has guided the content of the Strategy for the Rights of Persons of Disabilities 2021-2030 and its predecessor, the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020.

Disability Platform

The Commission regularly discusses the implementation of the Convention at EU and Member State level in the Disability Platform expert group, consisting of:

  • the European Commission
  • experts from EU Member States
  • representatives of several EU-level NGOs, including organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs)

Key disability achievements


The EU provides financial support through an annual grant to a number of EU-level organisations of persons with disabilities and NGOs (under the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme) to build their capacity and make their participation in EU-level processes easier (e.g. by providing views on the development of EU legislation and policies). These bodies were selected through a call for proposals and signed a Framework Partnership Agreement for the period 2022-2025. Awarded organisations are listed at the bottom of the call page.

The European structural and investment funds (ESIF) are the EU main financial instruments to strengthen economic and social cohesion. They help ensure social inclusion of the most vulnerable citizens, including those with disabilities.

European Semester

The European Semester provides a framework for the coordination of economic and social policies across the EU and provides information on the situation of persons with and without disabilities in the Member States.

Analytical Support

The European Disability Expertise (EDE) provides the European Commission with analysis of data and policies from the EU Member States. It manages DOTCOM, a database which monitors policy instruments related to the UN Convention in the EU and Member States.


The European Commission is committed to raising awareness on the living conditions of persons with disabilities, the challenges they encounter in everyday life and tools to improve their lives. To achieve this goal, the European Commission organises every year

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