On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on 3rd December, the European Commission and the European Disability Forum (EDF), of which Autism-Europe is a full member, held an online conference on 2 and 3 December 2021 attended by disability representatives from across Europe. The event was also an opportunity to award several cities across the European Union that strive to improve accessibility.
Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality from Malta, introduced the two-day all-online program alongside EDF President Yannis Vardakastanis and a European Union Slovenian Council Presidency representative. Speakers included representatives of the United Nations , the World Health Organisation, the European Commission’s Directorates-General for Social Affairs and Inclusion, Health and Food Safety as well as various disability, family, children’s advocacy groups and experts, academics and professionals. This year’s event focused on three issues: access to healthcare, how the digital transition can benefit disabled persons, and children with disabilities. These vital issues were all exacerbated during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Discussing access to health, digitalisation and the situation of children
During the European Day of Persons with Disabilities, Autism-Europe and several autistic participants highlighted the specific needs of autistic people about healthcare. Furthermore, in the context of its outgoing biannual Europe-wide campaign on access to education and employment for people on the autism spectrum, Autism-Europe launched a survey on good practices in education for autistic learners.
Released in March 2021 by the European Commission, the Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities 2021-2030 and its implementation were central to the debate. Autism-Europe prepared a comprehensive response welcoming the Strategy and calling for its translation into real and concrete actions needed to improve the situation of autistic people and their families.
EU Access City Awards ceremony
The highlight of the European Day of Persons with Disabilities was undoubtedly the 12th EU Access City Awards that reward cities making continuous efforts to become more accessible for persons with disabilities and older people.
The winner of this year’s award presented by Commissioner Dalli is Luxembourg City, the capital of Luxembourg, recognised for its high commitment to improving accessibility for everyone, public awareness campaigns, and its comprehensive design-for-all approach.
Helsinki, the capital of Finland, won the second prize thanks to its accessibility plan since 2005 with an all-encompassing approach to developing accessible public facilities and services. Autism-Europe especially welcomes that Helsinki pays special attention to addressing the needs of its neurodiverse population to make the city accessible for all.
The third prize went to Barcelona, Spain, for having implemented a strong accessibility plan based on a detailed analysis of accessibility of its public spaces, facilities, and services.
Special mentions went to Porto, Portugal, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Leuven, Belgium. Autism-Europe congratulates Leuven for running low-stimulus special time slots during their annual fairs and including autistic experts in making the city more accessible.