The European Commission have delivered a legislative proposal to introduce a standardised disability card which is to be recognised throughout the EU. The proposal, announced on 6 September, also seeks to enhance the current European Parking Card for persons with disabilities. The measures should simplify travel and free movement for people with disabilities across Europe.
Approximately 87 million persons in the EU have some form of disability. When people's disability status is not recognised abroad, they cannot access the special conditions and preferential treatment, such as free and/or priority access, reduced fees or personal assistance, while visiting other Member States.
European Disability Card
The European Disability Card would serve as recognised proof of disability throughout the EU, granting equal access to special conditions and preferential treatment in public and private services, such as transport, cultural events, museums, leisure and sport centres, or amusement parks.
The legislative proposal for the European Disability Card takes into account the experiences of pilot projects carried out in eight member states. The pilots were implemented in Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, Romania, and Slovenia in 2016-2018. The pilot initiative was financed under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).
Under the initiative, national service providers in the culture, leisure, sports and transport sectors in these Member States provided access to certain benefits, such as priority access, personal assistance, mobility aids, price reductions or free entrance to persons with disabilities that were holders of the Disability Card. The service providers voluntarily adhered to the card’s scheme. Once they joined the card’s scheme, service providers were obliged to offer the same benefits they provided to nationals with disabilities also to cardholders from other participating Member States. The implementation of a card in the pilot projects contributed towards the mutual recognition of disability status in the participating Member States, as well as boosted higher participation of persons with disabilities in the culture and leisure sectors, according to an evaluation study.
The proposals have also taken into account the findings from a public consultation, in which the Commission received more than 2,500 replies from people with disabilities.
European Parking Card
The proposed improvements to the current European Parking Card will allow persons with disabilities to access the same parking rights available in another Member State. It will have a binding common format that will replace national parking cards for persons with disabilities and be recognised throughout the EU.
The EU Parking Card and the European Disability Card will be two separate Cards, and both cards will be available both digitally and physically.
“With this proposal we are unlocking free movement for EU citizens with disabilities by ensuring the mutual recognition of their disability status in Europe," stated Helena Dalli, EU equality commissioner, in a press briefing. "This will facilitate the inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities in our societies by ensuring that persons with disabilities can readily access the support intended for them in all Member States."
Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, commented on the proposal that it is a big step forward responding to a long-expressed demand. At the same time, Vardakastanis urged co-legislators to take action, particularly on work and study matters. He stated: “While we recognise the Card as an important step, we call on the European Parliament to strengthen the Card so it can be a tool to facilitate our rights to live and work anywhere in the EU – as other citizens have. Having to have your disability “re-assessed” when moving abroad puts an undue burden on persons with disabilities – not to mention that it is an affront to our dignity. Our disability does not disappear when we cross borders.”
The legislative proposal made by the Commission will now be negotiated by the EU Council and the European Parliament, and a legal act will be passed, requiring EU governments to implement the cards for their nationals within 2.5 years.
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