Rights of people with disabilities in Europe: a new strategy based on ability rather than disability

Nicosia, Cyprus 27 March 2017
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Rights of people with disabilities in Europe: a new strategy based on ability rather than disability

The Council of Europe launched today its new Disability Strategy 2017-2023 at a two-day conference in Nicosia (Cyprus) to support its 47 member states in making human rights a reality for all.

The strategy focuses on five rights-based priority areas which are anchored in the European Convention on Human Rights and other Council of Europe and UN standards: equality and non-discrimination, awareness raising, accessibility, equal recognition before the law and protection from exploitation, violence and abuse.

“Our aim is not just to set standards, but also to empower persons with disabilities to bring down barriers and allow, for example, better access to study, to work, to make use of skills and talents, to compete in sports and to make a difference in each other’s lives,” said Marja Ruotanen, Council of Europe Director responsible for Human Dignity and Equality.

In his speech, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, underlined the need to promote equality, in particular through inclusive education whereby children with disabilities are included in mainstream education. Referring to the legal capacity of persons with disabilities, he called for replacing substituted decision-making by supported decision-making. He also recommended moving resources from institutions to the development of individualised support services and placing the wishes and choices of the individual at the heart of the provision of services.

“We aim at strengthening and supporting people with disabilities so that they may live with maximum autonomy, as equal members of society. At the same time we have to cultivate the attitudes and values which ensure that disability is accepted, respected and recognised as part of human diversity,” said the Minister of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance of Cyprus, Zeta Emilianidou.

There are 80 million persons in Europe who live with a disability and many of them continue to be victims of discrimination or abuse. As a response, the Council of Europe launched this new strategy to encourage everyone to work together to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities over the coming years.

The conference is bringing together representatives of the governments of the 47 Council of Europe member states, representatives of international organisations, local and regional authorities, professional networks, non-governmental organisations, the media and the academic world, and members of parliament as well as persons with disabilities, specialist bodies and specialised service providers.

The conference is organised as part of the Cypriot Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and is hosted by the Cypriot Ministry of Welfare, Labour and Social Insurance.