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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 30 November 2012

European Day for People with Disabilities on 3 December: Europeans strongly back better accessibility for disabled

Brussels, 30 November 2012 – Europeans strongly believe that disabled people should be able to participate fully in society, according to a new survey by the European Commission released ahead of the European Day for People with Disabilities on 3 December. Among those asked, 97% said that people with disabilities should be able to go to school, get a job or access shops like anyone else. 7 in 10 respondents say better accessibility of goods and services would very much improve the lives of disabled people, the elderly and others, such as parents with young children. 84% believe more accessible goods and services would also create more opportunities for industry.

Making Europe more accessible to those with a disability is a key part of the EU’s overall disability strategy (IP/10/1505). The European Commission is currently preparing proposals for a European Accessibility Act set to come out in 2013. Today’s survey finds that 86% of Europeans believe similar accessibility solutions across Europe would enable disabled people to travel, study and work in another EU country and 78% think common rules would make it easier for companies to operate in the EU’s Single Market.

"Everyone in Europe has a right to participate fully in society and Europeans very clearly share this view," said Vice-President Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "Making life accessible for everyone is at the heart of our strategy for a barrier-free Europe which is why I intend to come forward with a proposal to break down barriers for the disabled with a European Accessibility Act in 2013."

On 3 December 2012 the European Commission will announce the winners of the third annual Access City award – an innovative competition between European cities to promote accessibility in the urban environment for people with disabilities. Previous winners include Salzburg in Austria (IP/11/1492) and Avila in Spain (IP/10/1641).


One in six people in the European Union – around 80 million – have a disability that ranges from mild to severe. Over one third of people aged over 75 have disabilities that restrict them to some extent. These numbers are set to rise as the EU population grows progressively older. Most of these people are all too often prevented from fully participating in society and the economy because of physical or other barriers, as well as discrimination.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights says that the “Union recognises and respects the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community.” In addition, the EU and all its 27 Member States have already committed to creating a barrier-free Europe by signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

'Accessibility' means that people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications technologies and systems, and other facilities and services.

The Commission adopted a comprehensive strategy in 2010 to create a barrier-free Europe for disabled people by 2020. The plan outlines how the EU and national governments can empower people with disabilities so they can enjoy their rights.

One of the key actions included was an accessibility initiative. The aim is to use standardisation or public procurement rules to make all goods and services accessible to people with disabilities while fostering an EU market for assistive devices. This market is expected to grow considerably in the coming years, following the experience in the United States.

In December 2011, the European Commission launched a ten-week public consultation on possible measures to improve accessibility in Europe (IP/11/1533). The results of this consultation will now feed into the Commission’s preparations for a European Accessibility Act, which include a thorough evaluation of the impact of different policy options. The Commission intends to present a proposal in the course of 2013.

For more information

Eurobarometer survey – Attitudes to Accessibility in the EU:

European Commission – People with disabilities:

Access City Award:

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

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