Towards inclusive citizenship

Citizenship is a great enabler, bringing with it many rights. But when trying to enjoy their rights many people with disabilities face constant barriers. As this year’s European Day of Persons with Disabilities focuses on citizenship, FRA calls for greater efforts to build a fairer and more inclusive Europe so people with disabilities can live as fully-fledged citizens.

For example, citizenship also means being included in the community. However, their right to independent living is often impeded. This can be due to a lack of adequate community support coupled with inaccessible services in the real and digital world that leave many people with disabilities feeling excluded and lacking choice and control over their lives.

Citizens also have a say in democratic processes. But for people with disabilities legal and administrative hurdles prevent them from enjoying their right to political participation. Again accessibility plays a major role. Election information and campaign material is rarely available in formats that cater to people with disabilities and accessible polling stations usually just consider those with physical impairments rather than the needs of all people with disabilities. In addition, some laws deprive people of their voting rights based on their impairment such as those with intellectual disabilities.

The EU and Member States that have ratified the UN’s disability convention, the CRPD, have legal obligations to facilitate people with disabilities to enjoy their rights and fully participate in society. Already the Convention has triggered wide-ranging legislative changes in and across the EU. The recent signing of the European Pillar of Social Rights is another encouraging step forward. It should give renewed vigour to drive forward a social Europe for all European citizens, including people with disabilities through equal opportunities, social protection and inclusion.

It is time for the EU and its Member States to build on this momentum, to give people with disabilities their opportunity to have their voice heard, be consulted and be included on an equal footing with people without disabilities. In other words, to enjoy the full benefits of being citizens in the EU, in their country of residence and in their local community.