2 December 2016, Brussels – The International Day of Persons with disabilities is about people and their rights. It is an occasion to recall how people with disabilities and their representatives have been and remain drivers of policy change around the world.
Ten years ago, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted. The human rights based approach to disability became a worldwide legal reference point.
This did not happen overnight. It is the result of many years of campaigning and awareness-raising, in particular by the disability movement. This kind of work remains important today, because barriers of all kind remain in place.
The European Commission is committed to breaking down these barriers and to supporting the implementation of the UN Convention in the European Union, within its areas of competence. Concrete steps have been taken under the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and a progress report is under way. Among recent steps,
the Accessibility Act, which the Commission proposed one year ago, uses the full potential of the Single Market to make key products and services accessible for people with disabilities. I hope that the proposal from the Commission can soon be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. I also welcome the recent adoption of the Web Accessibility Directive: new digital services and products offer new opportunities for people with disabilities to take part in society and in the labour market.
The challenge remains huge. Our evidence shows that disabled persons face a much higher risk of social exclusion than the general population. Moreover, it is expected that in 2020, 1 European out of 5 will experience a degree of disability.
This Commission has put inclusive growth and social fairness at the core of its agenda, and it is working hard to make sure that no one is left behind. The commitment of national, regional and local authorities as well as businesses and civil society organisations is essential to achieve decisive progress. It is only by pooling our efforts that we can make the full and equal participation of people with disabilities a reality.
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