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It’s not the disability, but the ability of a person that matters!

Developing together the support services of tomorrow

Picture of Marianne Thyssen, Franz Wolfmayr and Yannis Vardakastanis
For its 20th anniversary, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) organised on Thursday 20th October the conference “
Developing together the support services of tomorrow”. Over 250 delegates from across Europe participated in the discussions on how to develop together the support services of tomorrow, enabling the full inclusion in society for persons with disabilities.

Ms Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Mobility and Skills opened the EASPD conference and highlighted that “It is not the disability, but the ability of a person that matters! It is up to us, policy makers, to create the right framework conditions, allowing people to make the most out of their abilities. You, as service providers for people with disabilities, you have a key role in making independent living a reality on the ground. Your voice matters and that is why it is so important that you have put the right structures in place to make it heard loudly and clearly at European level.


Picture of Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social affairs, Mobility and Skills

Mr Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, outlined the milestones for the disability movement during the past 20 years, including article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty, the organisation of the European Year of persons with disabilities (2003) and the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the EU. However, he stressed that the EU and Member states should acknowledge the impact that austerity measures have had on service provision. “There are thousands of persons with disabilities in the European Union that are still in institutions and faced with institutionalisation in their own homes because of a lack of services”. He also highlighted the importance of sustainability to keep high quality, individualised services on a long term basis and he called for an “institutional agreement, in order to mainstream the CRPD in an effective, coherent and coordinated way in all EU institutions.”


The Joint Declaration on Developing Together the Support of Tomorrow was officially launched and co-signed by EASPD, the European Disability Forum, the European Network of Independent Living, Inclusion Europe, Mental Health Europe and COFACE Families Europe. The Joint Declaration aims at providing a common understanding on the direction support services should take to enable full inclusion, as well as a shared commitment towards working together to achieve this goal.


Mr Franz Wolfmayr, President of EASPD, referred to the EASPD conference as a very important moment for the disability movement calling for “the conference to mark a strategic shift to a new reinforced cooperation between organisations representing persons with disabilities, families, public authorities, business, trade unions and support services towards developing a more inclusive society”; adding that the “disability movement must now work even further to convince mainstream stakeholders that inclusion is good for society as a whole”.


Mrs Eveliina Pöyhönen, Vice-chair of the Ad hoc Committee of experts on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities from the Council of Europe took the floor during the parallel session on supported decision-making. She highlighted the importance of the CoE Committee to steer the intergovernmental work in the field of disability rights and presented the main cross-cutting issues that will be included in the new Council of Europe Disability Strategy for 2017-2023: Participation, co-operation and coordination; Universal Design and reasonable accommodation; Gender equality perspective; Multiple discrimination; Education and training.


The conference was co-produced with the European Disability Forum (EDF), the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL), Inclusion Europe, Mental Health Europe (MHE) and the Confederation of Family Organisations (COFACE). It was also supported by the Entelis project and the EC Disability Unit. Within the framework of its 20th anniversary, EASPD also organised on Wednesday 19th October a Gala Dinner in the European Parliament (EP), hosted by the EP member, Mr Dieter Lebrecht Koch.


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Note to editors

EASPD is a non-profit European organisation, established in 1996, and currently representing over 12.000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the principles of the UN CRPD. EASPD promotes equal opportunities for persons with disabilities through the provision of individualised services. The EASPD network supports and promotes the structural cooperation with all stakeholders in society as well as innovation in the sector. EASPD also calls for fair working conditions and training for professionals working in services for people with disabilities.