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European Commission


Brussels, 5 June 2014

EU fully committed to protecting persons with disabilities, says Commission report on UN Convention

The European Commission published today its first report on how the EU is giving effect to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This Convention is the first international legally binding instrument setting minimum standards for a range of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights for people with disabilities around the world. It is also the first comprehensive human rights convention to which the EU has become a party (IP/11/4). The publication of this report coincides with the launch, by the European Commission, of the 5th Access City Award competition – an annual prize recognising cities for their efforts to make it easier for disabled and older people to gain access to public areas such as housing, public transport or communication technologies (see link).

"The European Union is fully committed to protecting and promoting the rights of people with disabilities in all areas of life, with all available means, from legislation to policies and from research to funding. The report issued today on the implementation of the UN Convention on disability rights is proof of that commitment", said European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "People with disabilities still face too many barriers in everyday life, which is why we have placed accessibility at the centre of our strategy for building a barrier-free Europe. The European Commission wants to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy their rights on an equal basis with all other citizens."

Around 80 million people with disabilities live in the EU and are still vulnerable to discrimination, stigmatisation and social exclusion. The UN Convention, ratified by the EU in January 2011, is filling an important protection gap in international human rights law, as it recognises disability as a legal issue rather than a mere welfare matter.

All 28 Member States have signed the Convention and 25 of these have ratified it, while the remaining three (Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands) are progressing towards ratification. EU Member States that have ratified the Convention need to periodically inform the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities about the measures taken to implement the Convention.

The report issued today describes how the EU has been implementing the Convention through legislation, policy actions and funding instruments. It addresses all rights and obligations enshrined in the Convention, from accessibility and non-discrimination to international cooperation and governance structures, and across a wide range of policy fields: from justice to transport, employment and education to information technology, development cooperation to humanitarian aid.

The report shows that the ratification of the Convention has tangible impacts on the ground in the EU:

  • In the area of justice, the 2013 Commission Recommendation on procedural safeguards for vulnerable people suspected or accused in criminal proceedings (IP/13/1157) makes explicit reference to the Convention to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are properly identified and addressed during the proceedings, for instance by providing them with information concerning their procedural rights in an accessible format.

  • The 2014-2020 regulatory framework for the European Structural and Investment Funds contains new, reinforced provisions and ex-ante conditionality criteria to make sure that investments are effectively used to promote equality, non-discrimination, social inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities through targeted actions and effective mainstreaming.

  • The new Directives on public procurement, adopted in 2014, make it necessary to take into account accessibility for persons with disabilities in most procurement procedures.


The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, adopted by the Commission in November 2010 (IP/10/1505), sets a concrete agenda of actions in the areas of accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health and external action.

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. People with disabilities face for example limitations in their right to free movement within the EU in particular due to a lack of mutual recognition of their disability status and related benefits, an obstacle recognised in the 2013 Citizenship report (IP/13/410).

Different national accessibility requirements for products and services affect the well-functioning of the single market, causing disadvantages for both businesses and consumers. For this reason, after consulting with stakeholders and industry (most recently in December 2013 IP/13/1192), the European Commission services are currently working on a European Accessibility Act. It aims to improve the functioning of the market of accessible mainstream products and services for the benefit of people with disabilities.

Almost half of Europeans consider discrimination on grounds of disability to be widespread in the EU and 28 % of Europeans with a disability say they have experienced such discrimination (Special Eurobarometer 393 - 2012). The average education, employment and poverty rates of people with disabilities are consistently and substantially worse than those for people without disabilities. People with disabilities in the EU have an average employment rate of 47 % (72 % for people without disabilities).

For more information:

European Commission – People with disabilities: and

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

Homepage of Viviane Reding, Commission Vice-President responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:

Justice Directorate-General Newsroom:

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Joshua Salsby (+32 2 297 24 59)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail

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