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Assessing Disability in Europe

People with disabilities who move to another country often have to reset medical examinations and undergo assessments of their capacities in the new country in order to establish the degree of disability, which in most cases had already been established in the country of origin.

In order to avoid double examinations and re-assessments, it would be helpful to study possibilities of exchange of information contained in administrative and medical files concerning people with disabilities, the assessment of their degree of disability and the allocation of allowances or benefits. As a starting point, the different criteria applied and methods used for the establishment of the degree of disability and the allocation of allowances in member States need to be compared.

To that end, a Working Group was set up in November 1997 to elaborate a comparative analysis of the different assessment methods and criteria governing the granting of allowances (e.g. disability/invalidity pensions) and personal assistance for people with disabilities.

In this context, the question whether the implementation of rehabilitation measures comes before the allocation of benefits (pensions) is of particular interest.

“Social security benefits and other assistance cannot replace but only facilitate and further the integration into society of people who are, or who may become, disabled.”

Recommendation No. R (92) 6 on A coherent policy for people with disabilities

The results of that Working Group were published in the report “Assessing disability in Europe – similarities and differences”, a comparative study of disability assessment methods analysing the various criteria governing the granting of benefits in cash or kind for people with disabilities in 22 Council of Europe member states.

Four basic approaches to disability assessment have been identified and examined: Barema methods, care needs assessment, functional capacity determination and economic loss estimation.

The report also describes the role and responsibilities of multidisciplinary teams in determining the allocation of allowances and personal assistance and, more particularly, in evaluating the person’s potential for professional and social (re)habilitation and (re)integration (“rehabilitation before pension”).

Drawn up by the Council of Europe Committee on the Rehabilitation and Integration of People with disabilities the report is based on contributions from member states’ governments and international non-governmental organisations.

The study highlights the need for more research, cross-border communication and further harmonisation of disability assessment methods in Europe in order to move towards greater homogeneity of systems.

The publication is available in English and French from: Council of Europe Publishing, F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, Fax: (+33) 3 88 41 39 10,
E-mail:, Web site:

Assessing disability in Europe – similarities and differences,
Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg, April 2002, 163 pages,
ISBN 92-871-4744-2, Price: € 23 / US $ 35