Disability rights: A European Disability Card to harmonise status across the EU

  • People with disabilities should have access to barrier-free travel, education and the digital realm, as well as non-institutionalised housing 
  • They are more likely to face violence or be marginalised on the labour market 
  • Barrier-free government buildings and accessible online information important to boost participation in society

Mobility, education, housing and active inclusion in public life are key areas where Europeans living with disabilities would benefit from reform, say MEPs.

The EU should have a common definition of disability and introduce a European Disability Card to mutually recognise disability status across the EU, argue MEPs in a resolution approved with 579 votes in favour, 12 against and 92 abstaining.

Other recommendations approved by MEPs include more flexible assistance with rail travel and removing physical and administrative barriers to travel; education systems that can accommodate different kinds of learners and the needs of different students; and providing non-institutionalised, non-segregated housing to citizens with a disability, so that they can be active participants in their community.

Ensuring accessibility

To participate equally in a society increasingly reliant on digital skills, Parliament calls for concrete measures, such as public bodies providing information in sign language, braille and easy-to-read text. Sign language interpretation should be introduced for speech-based events, and government buildings should be accessible, according to MEPs.

Discrimination and violence

They also point out that the EU needs to focus more on combatting violence (including gender-based violence) and harassment, of which people with disabilities are disproportionately the victim, and to close the employment gap between people with a disability and others. Parliament also calls on the Council to move forward with a cross-cutting Anti-Discrimination Directive, currently stuck there.


Rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, MT) said: “People with disabilities continue to face multiple obstacles and discrimination in their lives. One of these is the lack of mutual recognition of disability status between EU Member States, which is a tremendous hindrance to their freedom of movement. Now is time to respond to our citizens’ concerns and to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in a barrier-free Europe. We have to promote their social and economic inclusion and participation in society, free from discrimination, in full respect of their rights, and on an equal basis with others.”

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) came into effect in the EU in 2011. According to the convention, the Committee on Petitions plays a ‘protection role’ to ensure EU compliance with the CRPD. After receiving dozens of petitions related to these issues, the committee drafted a report assessing the current challenges facing people with disabilities.