The rights of people with disabilities may be recognised across the whole continent in a few years’ time.
Brussels has laid out plans for a European Disability Card that would allow people to prove that they are disabled in every EU country.
A pilot programme is currently in place in eight member states, including Belgium, where the card is being trialled, but this week, the European Commission presented a proposal to extend it to all EU countries.
“Today, we are unlocking free movement for EU citizens with disabilities by ensuring the mutual recognition of their disability status in Europe,” Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner for Equality told reporters in Brussels.
“This will facilitate the inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities in our societies by ensuring that persons with disabilities can readily access the support intended for them in all Member States.”
Euronews spoke to Pierre Gyselinck in the Belgian capital who has a physical disability and was also one of the first people in Europe to hold a European Disability Card. He has praised the idea.
“Sometimes you can have a disability which nobody sees,” Gyselinck said.
“For example, when I was in Italy, I asked for assistance in a museum and a long time ago I could not get assistance because I could not prove I was disabled.
“In those days I didn’t use a wheelchair. I was walking with a stick, but not a wheelchair. Luckily, [this time] the person was willing to get me an e-scooter so I could visit the museum.”
The card will grant disabled people equal access to any special treatment, including assistance, free and priority entrances to museums or preferential parking spots.
By recognising disabilities all over the EU, travel and mobility can also be encouraged in order to reduce extra costs encountered when going abroad.
Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, told Euronews that it is a big step forward.
“When we cross borders, our disability does not disappear and the disability card and the parking card are proof of the disability status,” he said.
“So, when you go from Belgium to Germany, a citizen of Belgium will not need to prove that he is or she is a person with a disability. The disability card will do it for that person.”
The Commission’s proposal comes more than 13 years after the first demand for such a card and will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council before it can become a reality in a few years’ time.