ICT based Learning and Social Network for People with Disabilities and Volunteers

What has to be Improved

State of People of Disabilities and What Needs to be Improved

In the EU, one in six people – around 80 million – has a disability that ranges from mild to severe. That includes people that are not only suffering from mental or birth disorders but also people with injuries and chronic diseases. During 2010 European Commission published the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 setting out a detailed action program that aims to empower people with disabilities to enable them to enjoy their rights, benefit fully from participating in society, European economy and political process that shapes their future.

Shortly after publishing the European Disability Strategy, European Union also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This bounded EU and its member states to ensuring that the rights of people with disabilities are respected and enforced.
EU made important steps in setting down minimum standards of protection however certain obstacles still remain limit access for people with disabilities to social rights and consequently to full participation in society, particularly in the areas education, vocational training and employment, the built environment and transport, information and communication, health care and social protection.

Obstacles to social protection

Due to lack of adaption of their environment in many cases people with disabilities are not in a position to use the rights and services belonging to every citizen at a satisfactory level.

A number of factors relate to this including obstacles directly connected with the structure of the various benefits systems and the procedures for effective implementation of the rights and the opacity of legislation and regulations.

A direct consequence of this for people with disabilities and other social groups is that they cannot have simple, clear and appropriate access to the laws and regulations which primarily concern them. Lack of clear understanding and information on the part of people with disabilities may lead them to delay obtaining of financial assistance and services and even in some cases lead to loss of a certain benefits.

Obstacles to housing, urban areas and transport

The obstacles people with disabilities encounter can be found in the use of public transport to use of appropriate vehicles, lack of or failure to respect reserved parking spaces, failure to modify pavements, buildings and other public facilities to allow proper access. Policies should include measures to bring into line access to public transport, bus shelters, trains, stations, etc. It also needs to be noted that in most member states strive to make transport accessible to all.

Urban planning should be considered in its entirety eliminating as far as possible all the foreseeable or potential obstacles when products are designed, buildings constructed or renovated, material for public transportation replaced. The concept of design for people, the idea that everyone should have the same possibility of taking part in the various activities of life, such as educational and professional training, work and leisure, can solve these issues.

Obstacles to leisure, social and cultural activities

Taking as a starting-point the principle that all social leisure and cultural activities should be made accessible to people with disabilities, all structural, technical and physical obstacles should be removed. This is connected to the previous point of removing or reducing obstacles connected with access to buildings, facilities, and venues. In particular, access to cinemas, theatres, museums, art galleries, tourist sites and holiday areas should be improved. Additionally staff could be provided at public events as guides to people with disabilities. Attention should also be given here to the specific activities people with disabilities may themselves request. Active participation of people with disabilities should be encourage at public events when conditions permit, bettering social inclusion effort.

Obstacles to vocational training and employment

Despite the existence of legislative provisions in this area, there are still a great many inequalities resulting in direct or indirect discrimination with respect to access to employment and vocational training for people with disabilities. Studies done by European Committee for Social Cohesion and the Committee on the Rehabilitation and Integration of People with Disabilities show that regarding access to employment, people with disabilities encounter many obstacles related to a number of factors including: age, sex; educational and training level; accessibility of places of work and training; the nature of the disability or impairment; lack of flexible working-hours or possibilities of adjusting working hours; reluctance to invest in making the necessary adjustments (accessibility, technology, etc.) to facilitate the employment of people with disabilities.
The result of the accumulation of these factors is that far too many people with disabilities are forced to remain dependent on social benefits simply because it is impossible for them to enter the job market in satisfactory conditions.

Stigmatization

There are temporal and cultural factors that inform societies’ idea of what might be regarded as normal in one time and place and what may be regarded as abnormal in another, thus excluding people with disabilities from the mainstream of social activities. This may be considered one of the most important factors, leading to previously listed obstacles. The social stigmatization and discrimination that leads to social exclusion are still a reality in many countries. The process of social stigmatization and discrimination operating as described does not only concern people with disabilities but also other groups such as minorities. Access to proper information, education of general public, and interaction with people with disability play an important role in social inclusion. People with disability are people first forgetting that leads to pity, exclusion and exploitation and artificially divides people into “them” and “us”.
For more detailed information please check the following sources:
European Commission, European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe, SEC(2010) 1324 final, Brussels, 15 November 2010, available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=SEC:2010:1324:FIN:EN:PDF.

European Commission, EU ratifies UN Convention on disability rights, Press Release, Brussels, 5 January 2010, available at: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/11/4&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en.

Council of Europe Publishing, Access to social rights for people with disabilities in Europe, Council of Europe, November 2003, available at: http://www.coe.int/t/e/social_cohesion/soc-sp/access%20to%20social%20rights%20%20in%20color.pdf

European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, The Labour Market Situation of People with Disabilities in EU; January 2008, available at: http://www.euro.centre.org/data/1201610451_25081.pdf

International Labour Organisation, Factsheet: Discrimination at Work in Europe, available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_decl_fs_90_en.pdf.

Sarah Earle, Disability and stigma: an unequal life, 2003, available at:  http://oro.open.ac.uk/12660/1/Disability_and_Stigma.pdf

Timothy Prestero, Design for People, not Awards, TEDxBoston, June 2012, available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/timothy_prestero_design_for_people_not_awards.html

Websites

Council of Europe
http://www.coe.int

European Commission
http://ec.europa.eu/health-eu/my_health/people_with_disabilities/index_en.htm