Improving quality of life for people with autism
Autism Europe Aisbl
Representing people with Autism at the European Day of Persons with Disabilities
To mark the European Day of Persons with Disabilities, the European Commission organised in cooperation with the European Disability Forum (EDF) a policy conference in Brussels on 1 and 2 December. During two days, representatives from the disability movement, experts with disabilities and decision-makers focus on the effects of the crisis: “Europe’s way out of the crisis: the disability rights perspective.” Representatives of Autism-Europe were there to call on access to education and employment for persons with ASD.
In this challenging time of crisis, the 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe are among the worst hit by the unprecedented austerity measures being put in place across the EU. As governments want to reduce their budget deficits, social services are being seriously cut back. A report compiled by the European Disability Forum Observatory on the effect of the crisis shows that persons with disabilities are feeling effects of the austerity in a variety of ways, including cuts in disability allowances, being obliged to massive reassessments of disability status and a reduction in services, as recently highlighted also by Autism-Europe following a survey across its membership. This crisis is also affecting the capacity of organisations of people with disabilities to represent the interests of millions of disabled people in European countries.
“We need a new plan to use the Europe 2020 strategy and the European Disability Strategy to protect people with disabilities from the effects of the crisis, we are not in a normal situation” said the President of the European Disability Forum, Yannis Vardakastanis. The disability movement believes that there is also a different way to overcome the crisis. This alternative is based on the respect of Human Rights and by ensuring that Europe does not lose the talent of people with disabilities in employment, education and innovation. The active involvement of people with disabilities to exit the crisis, requires the European Union to use correctly the funding instruments at its disposal (such as the Structural Funds) and by the use of Europe 2020 Strategy Flagship Initiatives targeting the specific needs of people with disabilities.
PROMOTING ACCESS TO EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT
Autism-Europe was represented at the conference by its Vice President, Donata Vivanti. Donata, who was a speaker at the event, raised the issue that 90% of persons with ASD are unemployed due to a dramatic lack of opportunities. However, she explained that people with ASD can display particular talents, e.g. in the field of ICT, and could be actively employed if they were provided with adapted training and reasonable accommodation. She advised that the crisis could create an opportunity to rethink the current trend and to encourage the employment of people with disability in order to benefit from their unique talents. Pietro, a self-advocate and board member of Autism-Europe also emphasized that investing in education and training would save resources in the long run, due to the fact that it would make people with ASD more independent later on in life. These interventions echoed the conclusions of the workshop on education chaired by Autism-Europe Director, Aurélie Baranger, during which the benefits of early intervention and inclusive education were highlighted, as well as the necessity to have trained educational staff to work with people with complex needs disabilities. Participants concluded it would allow achieve the objectives set out in the Disability EU 2020 strategy for more education and employment and would be an efficient way to fight the crisis.
European Community Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity PROGRESS