People with disabilities

Some 80 million European Union citizens have a disability. People with disabilities are able to make an enormous contribution to European society, but often face barriers that prevent them from doing so.

While some EU member states have successfully removed the hindrances that stop disabled people from participating fully in the labour market and society at large, this still poses a challenge for other countries. FRA examines where legal and social barriers exist, and identifies the good practices some states have introduced that empower people with disabilities. Initial work has focused on the difficulties people with intellectual disabilities or mental health problems face. Future work will investigate the situation of children with disabilities and work to develop disability indicators.

The values of dignity, autonomy, equality and inclusion are key EU principles. With the UN’s most recent human rights treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the core concepts of self-determination, participation and inclusion have been expressly linked to people with disabilities, namely "those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others".

The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits discrimination on the ground of disability and recognises the right of disabled people to integration.



The FRA's disability work is framed by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): the Convention takes a rights-based approach to disability.

The Convention recognises that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Therefore society has an obligation to adapt to facilitate the full participation of people with disabilities. People with disabilities are "individuals" with rights, not objects of charity.

The convention was written with and by people with disabilities, in line with the disability movement's slogan: "Nothing about us without us". This philosophy guides the FRA's work related to disability rights.

How the FRA supports disability rights

The FRA carries out legal and social research and analysis of key fundamental rights issues. The legal research compares the EU’s legal provisions and measures. Social research can be either quantitative or qualitative. For example, for the project on the rights of people with intellectual disabilities and people with mental health problems, the FRA conducted in-depth interviews with people with disabilities and also asked then to document their everyday lives through "photo voice". Learn more about photo voice.

Such research can also involve discussions in focus groups bringing together people with disabilities and those who form an important part of their lives, such as carers, personal assistants and service providers.

For more on FRA's work on disability rights contact:

The FRA's partners working on disability rights

The FRA works with many partners including representative organisations of persons with disabilities. Below is the list of some of the main organisations and institutions with whom the FRA regularly cooperates.

See also: 
Has your country ratified the CRPD?

Has your country accepted the CRPD?

The UN convention has now been signed by 159 countries worldwide, and ratified (made legally binding) by 151. 

92 countries have signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and 85 have ratified it.

The following 25 EU Member States have ratified the CRPD:

  • Austria (ratified 2008, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Belgium (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Bulgaria (ratified 2012)
  • Croatia (ratified 2007, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Cyprus (ratified 2011, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Czech Republic (ratified 2009)
  • Denmark (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Estonia (ratified 2012, including the Optional Protocol)
  • France (ratified 2010, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Germany (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Greece (ratified 2012, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Hungary (ratified 2007, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Italy (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Latvia (ratified 2010, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Lithuania (ratified 2010, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Luxembourg (ratified 2011, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Malta (ratified 2012, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Poland (ratified 2012)
  • Portugal (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Romania (ratified 2011)
  • Slovakia (ratified 2010, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Slovenia (ratified 2008, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Spain (ratified 2007, including the Optional Protocol)
  • Sweden (ratified 2008, including the Optional Protocol)
  • United Kingdom (ratified 2009, including the Optional Protocol)

The EU also formally acceded to the Convention on 23 December 2010, the first legally binding core international human rights instrument to which the EU is party.

See the United Nations map of ratifications.

Latest news View all


Mental health support needed from an early age

As this year’s International Youth Day focuses on youth and mental health, FRA points to the need to address mental health issues from an early age. This will better prepare young people for employment and inclusion in the community by tackling the stigma and discrimination that many face during their formative years.

Latest projects View all


Children with disabilities: targeted violence and hostility

This project will look at hostility, including violence, towards children with disabilities across the EU. It seeks to identify the legal and policy framework, as well as determine how information about such hostility is being collected. In addition, the project will look for examples of promising practices of how some Member States are addressing the problem.

Latest publications View all


Fundamental rights: key legal and policy developments in 2013. Highlights 2013

Annual report
The EU and its Member States took a variety of important steps in 2013 to protect and promote fundamental rights by assuming new international commitments, revamping legislation and pursuing innovative policies on the ground. Yet, fundamental rights violations seized the spotlight with distressing frequency: would‑be migrants drowning off the EU’s coast, unprecedented mass surveillance, racist and extremist‑motivated murders, child poverty and Roma deprivation.

Fundamental rights: challenges and achievements in 2013 - Annual report 2013

Annual report
This year’s FRA annual report looks at fundamental rights-related developments in asylum, immigration and integration; border control and visa policy; information society, respect for private life and data protection; the rights of the child and the protection of children; equality and non-discrimination; racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; access to justice and judicial cooperation; rights of crime victims; EU Member States and international obligations.

The right to political participation for persons with disabilities: human rights indicators

The opportunity to be involved in political life, whether by standing for elected office, joining a political party, or following political news stories in the media, is at the heart of what it means to live in a democratic society. The report analyses data on the situation of political participation of persons with disabilities collected from across the 28 European Union (EU) Member States by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the European Commission-funded Academic Network of European Disability Experts (ANED).