People with disabilities People with disabilities

Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society

One in 10 Europeans has a disability, serious or less serious and the community at large is starting to realise that it needs to adjust to their needs, not vice-versa.

People with disabilities must be able to lead full lives and make decisions freely for themselves.

Policies for people with disabilities are often limited to financial or material support, however the emphasis should be on fuller "inclusion" within the community.

In April 2006, the Council of Europe adopted a Disability Action Plan 2006-2015 which contains 15 action lines, including participation in political, public and cultural life, education, information and communication, employment, accessibility of the built environment and transport. It also draws attention to the needs of women and children with disabilities and severely disabled people in need of a high level of support.

The Internet offers enormous potential for improving the social inclusion of people with disabilities (online work, e-democracy, access to knowledge and information). However, particular attention needs to be paid to accessibility questions.

More information on the Conference "Full inclusion of children and young people with disabilities into society" (21-22 November 2013)


In the context of the Austrian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Council of Europe are organising a symposium on "Human Rights and Disability" in Vienna on 10 and 11 April 2014 (Hofburg, Josefsplatz 3).

The aim of the symposium is to consider the political perspectives and the legal instruments on human rights of the Council of Europe and the United Nations, and their importance for people with disabilities. The discussions will focus on participation in the life of the community, particularly in employment and political affairs.

To ensure a broad exchange of views, the organisers have invited representatives from the 47 Council of Europe member states and international organisations, experts, members of parliament, legal experts, ombudspersons and representatives of civil society.


International Day of persons with disabilities - 2013 edition

On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland calls on member states to move with greater speed from a medical to a human rights-based approach towards disability.

"Around 15% of the European population has some form of disability. In some member states persons with disabilities are still institutionalised against their wish. Some are deprived of the right to vote. Others are put aside the mainstream society, to attend specialised and segregated schools. Those who do find work are often employed in sheltered workshops without any protection under national labour law provisions.

European society and member states' authorities must safeguard the right of all Europeans to full participation in society and should encourage active citizenship and inclusion from a very early age.

I want all Member States to examine carefully the status of persons with disabilities against the blueprint of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan 2006-2015 and to work with the Council of Europe to ensure that all Europeans can fully enjoy their human rights," Secretary General Jagland said.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities - 2012 edition

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland called on governments today to use Council of Europe standards to protect and empower the millions affected by disability as he marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December 2012.

“This year’s theme of removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society is a reminder of how much needs to be done to ensure that people with disabilities can live an independent and active life. This is not just about physical barriers such as environmental design or access to transport; it is also about removing prejudice, stigma, rejection and exclusion.

“Governments already have effective means to combat those barriers in the Council of Europe’s Revised Social Charter and the 2009 recommendation on universal design. Our Disability Action Plan 2006-2015 offers specific ways in which governments can dismantle existing barriers and avoid the creation of new ones.

“This work is essential to improve lives not only for the estimated 15% of the world’s population which has some form of disability, but also for their families and friends, and for the wider community. Let us move now to make this, the world’s largest minority, a full part of society.”

Did you know that ...

...the International Day for Persons with Disabilities is held annually on 3 December

Reference texts

Damian Tatic (Serbia), UN consultant and one of Europe's leading experts on the rights of the disabled

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