The 4th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities (EPPD), organised on December 6 by the European Disability Forum (EDF), gathered more than 700 self-advocates and representatives of DPOs from all across Europe to engage in dialogue with European leaders concerning their rights. Autism-Europe had a large delegation at this event, including self-advocates, family members and staff to advance the rights of autistic people.
As a landmark event marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December) and the 20th anniversary of EDF (of which Autism-Europe is funder member), the discussions taking place at the EPPD focused specifically on the right of persons with disabilities to vote and participate in political and public life, the next European Disability Strategy and the European Union (EU) being a global leader on inclusive Sustainable Development.
The event, opened by the president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and the President of EDF Yannis Vardakastanis:
President of the European Parliament, Tajani: “Our commitment to improve the lives of persons with disabilities is founded in our values as Europeans, including our attachment to freedom, equality and inclusion of all individuals in society. These values have to be translated into concrete actions, to enable every person to live an independent life, and to make sure that our society empowers everyone.”
EDF President, Vardakastanis: “Today we show a European Parliament close to its citizens. The EPPD is another milestone in the dialogue between EU elected representatives and citizens with disabilities. Over the last two legislatures, the European Parliament promoted and protected the rights of persons with disabilities during legislation negotiations on the right to equal access to the internet, to transport or to independent living, as well as on the structural funds – in line with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD)”.
The event was attended by other key European leaders such as Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner Christos Stylianides, European Economic and Social Committee President Georges Dassis, EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly and many members of the European Parliament Disability Intergroup, among others.
AE Vice President Pietro Cirrincione stated:
“The recognition of the condition of disability is the starting point for the respect of our rights, but the recognition process is unnecessarily stressful and painful, and different in European countries: in some countries it’s easy to go from diagnosis to the certification of disability, to economic benefits and services, in other countries, especially for some disabilities such as the autism spectrum, this transition is difficult, tiring, stressful and dependent on the commission that should evaluate us. Moreover, it must often be repeated in the course of our life. I ask that our rights are recognised easily and regardless of where we are born.
Research on experimentation of medicines for the autism spectrum is going to expand, by investments of money and resources, but the study of ethical issues, linked both to experimentation itself and to the acceptability of long-term pharmacological intervention has to develop too, direct involvement of people on the autism spectrum and their families in the ethical evaluation should be adequately ensured. Otherwise it could cause medical abuse, not only for the side effects of drugs, but also for obtaining consent, which should be really informed and aware. I ask that, in every country, people on the autism spectrum are constantly consulted on these topics”.
AE President, Zsuzsanna Szilvasy, explained to the audience that she became an advocate 14 years ago when she couldn’t find a school for her autistic son.
“Around 7 million Europeans have autism but remain extremely excluded. We need real implementation and monitoring of these international instruments”.
During the EPPD, a manifesto on the European elections 2019 was adopted unanimously by the delegates, calling on the EU leaders to ensure that the upcoming European elections are fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Delegates with disabilities also adopted a resolution for the upcoming decade. This resolution calls on EU leaders to adopt a European Disability Strategy 2020-2030 that will cover all provisions of the CRPD. The Strategy should include 2021 as the next European Year of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Moreover, participants discussed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the importance of taking people with disabilities on board in their implementation. Five of the SDGs are directly mentioning disability: goal 4 on quality education, goal 8 on decent work and economic growth, goal 10 on reduced inequalities, goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities and goal 17 on partnerships for the goals.
Finally, delegates also adopted an emergency resolution on the European Accessibility Act. The resolution calls on the Council of the EU to live up to its obligations to implement the CRPD and to adopt an ambitious and forward-looking General Approach to the European Accessibility Act at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting on 7 December 2017.