This past weekend, the European Disability Forum gathered in Vilnius, Lithuania, with officials from its member organizations from throughout Europe as well as the Lithuanian Republic and several European institutions. A symposium in Europe on “Disability and Sustainable Development” took place on the first day of the Board meeting. a viewpoint from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Opening the conference, Dovilé Juodkaité, President of the Lithuanian Forum for the Disabled welcomed this event as the only one focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities within the three pillars: social, economic and environmental of sustainable development and in the frame of the programme of the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU.
EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, underlined the importance of inclusive development. “It gets more and more understandable that inclusive development cannot be considered as such, unless it takes into account and on board persons with disabilities. Development that does not include persons with disabilities is a direct violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). Development should affect every citizen in society without any exclusion or discrimination”, said Yannis Vardakastanis.
Speaking also at the opening of the conference, the Lithuanian Minister of Social Security and Labour, Algimanta Pabedinskiene, stressed the Lithuanian Presidency’s commitment to a sustainable growth for Europe with the inclusion and active participation of persons with disabilities.
People with disabilities continue to experience social isolation. We must make sure they have access to appropriate and sufficient provisions in order for them to be treated equally in our society and to participate fully in all aspects of life. People with disabilities must be included while discussing the Millennium Development Goals, with a focus on women with disabilities. Lithuania is making every effort to fully implement the UN CRPD. Despite the crisis, we still need to develop fresh strategies for the integration of people with disabilities. Algimanta Pabedinskiene emphasized the need for proper utilization of the EU’s structural funds.
WE ARE ACTIVE CITIZENS
In the frame of 2013 European Year of Citizens, EDF Board adopted a statement calling onthe European Council, the European Commission, the European Parliament and all EU Member States to involve persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in all decision making processes at all levels.
HOW MUCH MORE BEFORE A EUROPEAN ACCESSIBILITY ACT?
During the meeting, the disability movement also adopted a resolution on the European Accessibility Act pushing among others for:
– a strong binding legislation with a holistic and broad approach to cover as many services and goods as possible
– links with international and EU standards as tools to guarantee accessibility
– a proposal that will be future proof by focusing on areas of action
– the need to cover both goods and services and their built environment aspects
EDF calls on the European Commission to live up to its commitment to 80 million citizens with disabilities and to present its legislative proposal of the Act before the end of the current term of the European Parliament.
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