Compendium on Member States' Policies on Equality of Opportunity for People with Disabilities
Two years ago, the European Union made a crucial policy shift to a rights-based approach in the disability field. This new strategy was advocated by the Commission in its July 1996 Communication on the integration of people with disability and then politically endorsed in a Resolution of the Council of Ministers in December 1996.
While public policy in the past was aimed at accommodating people to their disabilities, integration rather than accommodation is now seen as the key to their inclusion in mainstream society. The new approach is based on the shared commitment of all Member States to identify and remove barriers to equal opportunities and to promote the full participation of disabled people in all aspects of life.
The Resolution now serves as a reference framework to stimulate the clarification of common goals and the identification of best practice in addition to the structured exchange of information and experience between Member States.
The adoption of the new strategy also led to the creation of a High Level Group of Senior Officials from the Member States who meet regularly to monitor the developments throughout the Union.
The High Level Group places a particular focus on the following guidelines set out in the Resolution adopted by government representatives of the Member States during the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 20 December 1996:
- empowering people with disabilities for participation in society, including the severely disabled, while paying due attention to the needs and interests of their families and carers
- mainstreaming the disability perspective into all relevant sectors of policy formulation
- enabling people with disabilities to participate fully in society by removing barriers
- nurturing public opinion to be receptive to the abilities of people with disabilities and towards strategies based on equal opportunities.
The High Level Group also shares experience with regard to the involvement of representatives of people with disabilities in the implementation and the follow-up of relevant policies and actions in their favour.
It is clear that each Member State has its own way to establish and shape the various programmes and services targeted at people with disabilities. A sound understanding of the present institutional diversity of disability policies at both a national and regional (local) level is therefore required. It is anticipated that such an understanding will both enhance the exchange of information, experience and expertise as well as providing encouragement for closer co-operation towards more effective strategies and policies promoting equality of opportunity for people with disabilities.
The context of each national policy must therefore be taken into account before meaningful comparisons are made of the policies themselves. The challenge, in this respect, is to develop a common way of capturing these different contexts and, at the same time, stressing that -despite significant differences in the organisation of programmes and policies - all disability systems are faced with a set of key policy issues in implementing equal opportunities. Such is the main purpose of this Compendium on Member States' policies for Equality of Opportunity for People with Disabilities. It is important to note that the approach adopted for this work is fundamentally grounded on an equal opportunity model. It stresses that disability policy goes beyond the provision of social and medical services in order to reduce functional limitations and increase independence. A comprehensive equality of opportunity policy will also embrace, therefore, issues of accessibility, education, employment and social security, etc.
The compendium underscores both the importance of protecting and promoting the rights of disabled people as well as the raising of society's awareness in respect of the issues relevant to people with disabilities. A focus is also placed on the co-ordinated involvement of disability organisations in the planning, implementation and monitoring of policy relevant to people with disabilities.
Structure of the compendium
This 'Compendium on Member States' policies on Equality of Opportunity for People with Disabilities' presents for each Member State:
Part I - Organisational Arrangements on Disability Policies
Part II - an Organigram
Part III - Action Plans
Part IV - Co-operation - Consultation Structures.
Part I of each national summary outlines the organisational arrangements on disability policies broken down as follows:
B. Civil rights
Part II reproduces the organisational arrangements in an organigram. For an explanation of the figures used, see hereafter. The organigram aims to enable the user to visualise the different links and relations which exist between the five subjects listed above and any centralised/ decentralised dimensions impacting thereon.
Part III provides a summary of the action plans on disability policies for each Member State in pursuance of the points set out in Section II of the Resolution.
Paragraph IV focuses on the nature of the co-operation established to inform and/or consult disability organisations within each Member State.
Here after, under 'Organisational arrangements', on page 7-9, you will find an explanation of the terminology as used in the schemes and the organigrams.