On Wednesday 28th of November, the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the European Parliament’s Disability Intergroup hosted an event to discuss the future reality of a European-wide Disability Card. The event, which took place in the European Parliament, was co-hosted by MEP Olga Sehnlova, MEP Jana Zitnanska & MEP Brando Benifei.
The meeting was opened by remarks from MEP Brando Benifei as vice-president of the Disability Intergroup, an informal grouping of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who are interested in promoting the disability policy in their work at the European Parliament as well as at the national level.
The event discussed the topic “Making the European Disabilities Card reality”. The European Disability Card (EDC) is an initiative set up by the European Commission to establish a voluntary card that can help people with disabilities to access services such as transport, culture, leisure, and sport. By developing a pan-EU recognisable card, that can be used as an I.D card, when acquiring services around Europe, the European Commission hopes to ensure the equal access of transport, culture, leisure and sport services for people with disabilities.
In 2016 the Commission launched a pilot project in eight EU countries including, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Romania, to kick-start the initiative and assess the viability of the program across Europe.
The Member States were represented at the meeting by Gauthier Coccle of the Belgian Ministry of Social Affairs, who gave a presentation of the Belgian experience. EASPD member organisation KVPS also shared their experience of the project in Finland and were represented by Petra Rantamaki.
Pierre Gyselinck from Belgium, who is a member of the EDF Board and a user of the Disability Card spoke on the experiences of people who used the EDC during the pilot project. Mr.Gyselinck also talked about the need for the card and gave an example of a mother from England who had two sons with Autism who, when they went on holiday to another EU state, was unable to get assistance for her two sons as she was unable to prove that they had autism.
Mr.Gyselinck also gave an account of his own experience visiting a museum in Italy, at a time when he did not have a disability card, and so was unable to prove that he needed the use of a mobility scooter. He asked how many people, who are able-bodied, do not visit a museum due to the fact that their relation or partner cannot attend, as they are unable to prove that they have a disability and so would be unable to get a discount ticket.
Inmaculada Placenia of the European Commission spoke in her capacity as Senior Advisor on Disability (DG EMPL), about the current state of the pilot-project and its future. Ms.Placenia said that over the next nine months the Commission will complete an impact report on the eight pilot-projects, to discuss the cards viability and how to extend the project to other member states.
Some questions from the floor
The floor asked various questions concerning transport, the focus on discount, data protection of the card, and funding for the extension of the pilot project to other member states.
MEP Olga Sehnalova asked why the issue of transport was included within the Finnish project and not in the Belgium project.
David Lysaght – Policy Assistant at EASPD attended the intergroup meeting and raised the issues of data-protection for card users . Speaking after the event he said that “the card has great scope for improving the accessibility of support services as well as ensuring the inclusion of people with disabilities."