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Autismo España calls for an ambitious EU Disability Card at the European Parliament

On Tuesday, 28 February 2023, Spanish AE member Autismo España recommended in front of the European Parliament Committee on Petitions (PETI) in Brussels to ensure that the European Disability Card scheme takes into account autistic people needs and support mutual recognition of autism diagnosis across the EU as well as harmonization of disability rights.

On Tuesday evening, the PETI committee deliberated for roughly half an hour the benefits that autistic people should have from the future European Disability Card. First, AE’s Spanish member association Autismo España introduced their petition that highlights the need for mutual recognition of autism diagnosis and disability assessment across European countries. Ana Terrón from Autismo España highlighted the specific needs and barriers that autistic people face in society in Spain. Her colleague María Pindado called for the need to ensure access to adequate disability recognition for autistic people, so that they can in turn benefit from the European Disability Card.

This important petition of Autismo España echoes Autism-Europe’s long standing advocacy for a European Disability Card that can benefit autistic people in all areas of their life. At the end of 2022, AE submitted its current position to the European Commission’s call for evidence on the Card.

Petitioner Autismo España’s intervention was followed by European Commission representative Inmaculada Placencia. She highlighted the needs of people with invisible disabilities, reminded the petitioners that disability assessment is a competence of EU member states and that the European Disability Card is only for mutually recognizing this assessment. She recalled that the European Disability Card pilot phase was limited and participation of services was voluntary. Yet, the European Commission envisions the future European Disability Card scheme to be more ambitious. She finalized her intervention by reminding Autismo España of the European Commission’s current public consultation on the European Disability Card open until 5 May 2023, which is also accessible in plain text format and Easy-To-Read.

The European Commission representative’s intervention was followed by five Members of European Parliament (MEPs).  First, MEP Stelios Kympouropoulos from Greece recounted the barriers to inclusion for all people with disabilities and especially for autistic people. He recommended a common definition for disabilities across the European Union. Similar interventions followed MEP Alex Agius Saliba from Malta, who also sees the common disability status as an enabler to inclusion of autistic people. He was echoed by MEP Estrella Durá from Spain who also referred to the inclusion of autistic people into the recent Spanish labor law. The interventions by MEPs were closed by Sira Rego from Spain thanking Autismo España for their petition, which would broaden the rights of autistic people. PETI vice-chair Yana Toom from Estonia recognized the consensus by the committee members to forward the petition for answer to the European Commission.

Watch the presentation on the petition here (from 17h36 until 18h).

Autismo España’s representatives Ana Terrón and María Pindado highlighted the barriers of autistic people in Spain in several meeting with MEPs, including Disability Intergroup vice chair Rosa Estaras and PETI chair Dolors Monserrat. The two Spanish MEPs showed great interest in the petition, as well as in learning about the reality of autistic people and the possible measures to improve their quality of life from the European level. Autismo España also met Disability Intergroup co-chair Jose Gusmão from Portugal, who showed interest in continuing to work collaboratively with them.

Read Autismo España’s press release here and a news article in Spanish about their intervention here.

Access the public consultation on the European Disability Card here (deadline 5 May 2023).