On 22nd January, 17 recommendations to make the Erasmus+ programme 2021-2027 more inclusive were presented by the Inclusive Mobility Alliance (IMA) at an event in the European Parliament in Brussels, hosted by Members of European Parliament (MEPs) Damiano Zoffoli and Luigi Morgano.
MEP Zoffoli opened the event by highlighting the importance of Erasmus+ and its added value for all EU citizens. While the number of young people experiencing Erasmus+ exchanges is increasing rapidly, João Pinto, the President of Erasmus Student Network (ESN) International, reminded that disabled people are still largely excluded from the exchange opportunities the program offers. Indeed the number of students with disabilities taking part in Erasmus+ has been almost stagnating since 2007 (0.17% of students abroad had disabilities against less than 0.25% in 2017, according to figures just released by the European Commission). The IMA has thus been set up to promote better access and equal opportunity of Erasmus+ to disabled people, notably through advocacy.
On behalf of ESN, Dominique Montagnese presented the 17 recommendations recently drafted by the IMA, and addressed to a range of relevant stakeholders from the EU to the local level. These recommendations call for action to improve accessibility of the programme (both from an administrative point of view and on the ground), simplify funding mechanisms and ensure that adequate support costs are covered for disabled people, etc.
The recommendations were welcomed by Ioannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum (EDF), who stressed that the Erasmus+ Programme needs to be compliant with the UN Convention for Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) to foster the full inclusion of people with disabilities.
MEP Morgano summarized the discussion by pointing out that in order to foster accessibility for everyone Erasmus+ needs to rely on four key concepts: simplification, inclusion, cohesion, and individualisation. At the closing of the event many participants including the MEPs, ESN, EDF, Inclusion Europe and Autism-Europe signed the declaration by the IMA.
The IMA’s recommendations
These recommendations were produced between September 2018 and January 2019 by the IMA member organisations, including Autism-Europe, during two training events using non-formal Education methodologies. They were then finalised through online consultations and online participation. Although these recommendations were produced mainly with the Higher Education and Youth fields of Erasmus+ in mind, they are highly transferable to the School sector, adult and Vocational Educational Training (VET) sector, as well as other programmes and mobility schemes (e.g. European Solidarity Corps, traineeships etc.).
The Inclusive Mobility Alliance
The Inclusive Mobility Alliance is a coalition of 21 organisations and European networks, of which Autism-Europe is a member. These organisations represent three different fields: Higher Education mobility, Youth mobility and Disability. As stated in the Inclusive Mobility Alliance Declaration, the IMA partners stand for full inclusion in mobility and an inclusive Erasmus+ programme.