Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Persons with disabilities

Woman in a wheelchair talking with colleagues

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By 2020, one-fifth of the EU population is expected to have some form of disability. The EU and its Member States are committed to improving social and economic situation of persons with disabilities, building on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

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 entered into force for the EU on January 2011 and has guided the content of the European disability strategy 2010-2020.

Key disability initiatives

The Commission also supports Member States in the implementation of the UNCRPD through the European Semester and with EU funds.

Some useful policy instruments are 

  • the European Pillar of Social Rights, with principle 17 dedicated to persons with disabilities and disability concerns address in relevant principles
  • the European Semester, which provides a framework for the coordination of economic policies across the EU and provides information on the situation of persons with and without disabilities in the Member States

Awareness raising

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. It also publicises its implementation of the UNCRPD.

To achieve this goal, the European Commission organises every year

  • the European day of persons with disabilities conference
  • the Access City Award, which rewards cities which have made outstanding efforts to become more accessible
  • the annual work forum on the implementation of the UNCRPD
  • training for legal and policy practitioners on EU disability policy and legislation


The EU provides financial support through an annual grant to a number of EU-level disabled people's organisations (DPOs) and NGOs (under the rights, equality and citizenship programme) to make their participation in EU-level processes easier. For example, they provide views on the development of EU legislation and policies. These bodies include

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.

The Academic Network of European Disability Experts (ANED) 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 UNCRPD in the EU and Member States.

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