2011. 10. 25.
There are 80 million people living with disabilities in Europe. In Western Europe, only around 40% of them are in employment, while in Eastern Europe the figure stands at an even lower 15-20%. This is an especially great disadvantage in times of economic and financial crisis, given that people with disabilities could, potentially, contribute valuably to the recovery from the crisis as taxpayers and consumers. However, people with disabilities often cannot even be taken into account as consumers due to the fact that a large proportion of the built environment, as well as most products and services, are unaccessible and therefore unavailable to people with disabilities. On the plenary debate held on Monday, Mr Kósa pointed out that it is impossible to achieve the goals of the EU2020 strategy – which includes an employment level of 75% – without the inclusion of people with disabilities.
The report is based on the principal of "Nothing about us without us", which is the slogan of the international disability awareness movement. The proposals drawn up by it have been developed in co-operation with several Hungarian and European organisations, the European Commission and the Hungarian Presidency. In addition, several consultations took place with NGOs and civil groups. At a public hearing held in early September, both Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Viviane Reding and Commissioner for Employment László Andor assured the rapporteur of their full support.
The two most important priorities, supported by all parliamentary groups, were the promotion of sign languages and accessible communication methods for deaf, hard-of-hearing and visually impaired people, and the proposal of an inclusive education system based on higher parental participation and more intensive support for early-age development. Several other, less well-known areas are also mentioned in the report, including the commitment to disseminate newly developed innovational technology (infocommunication systems and GPS).
MEP Kósa pointed out that the Left-wing groups' hindrance of action against inequalities faced by people with disabilities is irresponsible. The Left-wing groups planned to settle the question within the so-called "Horizontal Anti-Discrimination Guideline", which has been delayed for several years, while the People's Party wished to address the question as part of the "European Accessibility Package", which was to be put forward next year. The Leftist majority rejected the proposal of the People's Party and thus a faster solution to the situation of people with disabilities. "The situation of people living with disabilities cannot become the subject of political warfare. The nature of the problems they face are not academic but very down-to-earth: infocommunicational and physical barriers pose a real and objective disadvantage and are independent from, for example, religion, or any other culturally determined viewpoint."
MEP Kósa believes that it is especially important to increase the role of the European Parliament in the field of disability and to achieve fast and visible results. The proposals of the report ensure the institutional framework needed to facilitate decision-making. The EPP Group MEP expressed his hope that the recommendations of his report will be implemented by the European Accessibility Package until the end of 2012, thus providing an opportunity for the social inclusion of people with disabilities and the stimulation of the labour market.