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The Council of Europe declares France in violation of the rights of disabled people

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) has declared France is violating the rights of people with disabilities, following a INGOs’ collective complaint in 2018. Autism-Europe welcomes this decision and joins the call of the complainant organisations demanding France take immediate action.

The ECSR  has declared the collective complaint filed by INGOs European Disability Forum (EDF) and Inclusion Europe (IE) admissible, establishing that France has violated the rights of people with disabilities protected by the European Social Charter. The collective complaint no. 168/2018 – which was lodged on behalf of French organisations APF France handicap, FNATH, Unafam and Autism-Europe member Unapei in 2018 – has been accepted by the Council of Europe and made public in April 2023. 

This unanimous decision from the ECSR establishes that France has failed to respect the rights of disabled people and adopt effective measures in terms of accessibility, education, independent living, social integration, full participation, access to healthcare, support services as well as access to transport and public infrastructure, which are rights protected by Articles 11, 15 and 16 of the Social Charter.

The organisations have outlined six key areas in which France is violating the rights of people with disabilities:

  1. Support: The ECSR has confirmed that there is an overall lack of support services for people with disabilities in France. Accurate data is required in order to design action plans that respond to the current situation.
  2. Resources and compensation: The ECSR also agreed that disabled people in France have on average a lower standard of living than the overall population, resulting in higher precariousness and poverty levels. Benefits and compensations should be re-evaluated to allow disabled people to live the life they choose and to be included in society.
  3. Accessibility: The ECSR confirmed that accessibility has in fact decreased in the country and the NGOs have demanded joint action from public and private entities to ensure that disabled people can adequately access transport services and housing.
  4. Health: The ECSR has recognised France’s violation of the right to healthcare, underlining that people with disabilities are being discriminated against in this sector.
  5. Education: The ECSR has established France’s violation of children’s right to access education, as many children with disabilities are inadequately included in the education system or completely excluded altogether.
  6. Social protection: The ECSR has confirmed France’s failure to provide support and accessibility services for families providing care to their disabled family members, resulting in people with disabilities not being fully included in society.

The public report of the collective complaint also underlines France’s failure to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), which the country ratified in 2010. In the report, the French institution in charge of the protection of human rights, the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) stated that France continues to act contrary to the human rights-based approach of the UN CRPD, as it continues to consider disabled people as ‘objects of healthcare’ instead of ‘subjects with rights’.

France has consistently failed to fully respect the rights and address the needs of its citizens with disabilities, as the collective complaint to the ECSR filed by Autism-Europe twenty years ago in 2002 – the first of its kind regarding disability rights – also shows. More than two decades later, autistic people in France continue to be denied adequate access to education, employment, support services and healthcare.

In 2012, the Collective Complaint  No. 81/2012 Action européenne des handicapés (AEH) v. France again highlighted issues regarding access to education for autistic children and adolescents as well as access to vocational training for young adults on the spectrum.

Autism-Europe encourages the autism community to share this decision of the Council of Europe as much as possible in order to raise public awareness. You can do so by participating in the organisations’ social media campaign #NotSoSweetFrance (in French: #PasSiDouceFrance) which calls out France’s lack of commitment for the rights of people with disability:

“France sweet France, land of human rights… except for people with disabilities.”