“One in six people in the European Union (EU) has a disability that ranges from mild to severe making around 80 million who are often prevented from taking part fully in society and the economy because of environmental and attitudinal barriers. For people with disabilities the rate of poverty is 70 % higher than the average partly due to limited access to employment. Over a third of people aged over 75 have disabilities that restrict them to some extent, and over 20 % are considerably restricted. Furthermore, these numbers are set to rise as the EU’s population ages”.

With these words, the Communication 636 of 2010, the European Commission highlights the urgency to intervene in removing barriers that don’t allow people with disabilities to enjoy a fuller life and announces the development of a strategy that in the period 2010 – 2020, supports the efforts of national policies.

The overall objective of this strategy is to empower people with disabilities in order to enjoy all their rights and benefits from the participation in the European economy and society. The Strategy identifies actions that are complementary to national actions.

The Commission has identified eight main areas for action: accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health and external action.

 Accessibility: it means the access of people with disabilities, under the same conditions as the rest of the population, to the physical environment, transportation, systems of information and communications technology (ICT) and other facilities and services. Participation: it means the ability to access to all the benefits of EU citizenship, including the right of free circulation, and to have full access to cultural, recreational and sports activities. For example, a person with a recognized disability moving to another EU country can lose access to national benefits, such as the ability to use public transport free of charge or at reduced prices. Equality: to eradicate discrimination on grounds of disability in Europe. Employment: to enable many people with disabilities to have an income from labor activities in the labor market  Education and training: to promote inclusive education and lifelong learning for all students with disabilities Social protection: to promote decent living conditions for people with disabilities. Health: to promote equal access to health services and related facilities External Action: to promote the rights of people with disabilities in the EU external action.

These areas are the general objectives of the Initial Plan of Implementation of the Strategy in which the specific objectives and the different actions are presented . We recommend, finally , the group of Academic Network of European Disability experts ( ANED ) which supports the development of policies in this area and the achievement of European objectives in collaboration with the Unit of the Commission on Disability. From the ANED website you can access more information.