How much progress can be expected within a space of four years? The European Commission has published their first evaluation of the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which they had ratified in December 2010. It comes as no surprise that different stakeholders present different interpretations of what success looks like.
The largest part of the report offers a description of and information on the numerous actions taken by the European Commission in the field of disability mainstreaming and reduction of discrimination and barriers. It offers a comprehensive account to measures taken by the EU and its institutions aiming at ensuring that disabled persons’ rights are considered in all relevant legislation processes as well as in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of EU policy. It covers e.g. the areas of access to justice, liberty of movement and nationality, education, health or work and employment. Important measures mentioned in the latter field are the Employment Equality Directive, the General Block Exemption Regulation or Directive 2004/17/EC and Directive 2009/81/EC which deal with disability considerations in public procurement processes.
Although civil society actors (mostly NGOs) such as the European Disability Forum (EDF) or the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) generally praise the report, they also criticise it e.g. for a lack of critical evaluation of the facts presented or for presenting a too strict view of the competences of the EU. Inclusion Europe, another disability-related NGO, states they would have wished a “more proactive and ambitious approach”. As a consequence, many groups have announced to publish an alternative report by the end of 2014 with the purpose to also deal with the gaps they see in the EU report.
The report presents some remarkable statistics on disability in the EU right at the beginning. The European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) 2011 shows that about 26% of people older than 16 years describe themselves as having an “activity limitation”. Contrary to the social model of disability, this paradigm does not take into account any interaction with barriers. With regard to levels of disability, 8% of persons aged 16 and over report a severe disability while about 18% declare a moderate disability. The survey also found that the prevalence of disability correlates with a higher age (e.g. 54% of people over 65 years have a disability whereas the share for people between 16 and 64 is only 18%). These numbers confirm that disability cannot be considered a side issue as it concerns a large amount of people. And of course, most disabilities are not visible and many do not prevent people from contributing at work.
The “Report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by the European Union” has 73 pages in total and is structured according to the Conventions articles. As required by article 35 of the Convention itself, all State Parties are obliged to submit such report at least once every four years.