Putting an end to tokenistic consultations

It is almost ironic. While the European Commission is busy developing and preparing for the imminent release of the draft European Accessibility Act and the Non-Discrimination Directive, the institution is breaking the very rules it is working so hard to see adopted and implemented. At the European Union level, disabled people and their representative organisations have been given no information on the content of the two draft pieces of legislation, and, in recent years, have had no involvement in the development of their provisions, or access to the decision making processes themselves.

The involvement of excluded groups such as persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, or people in institutional care, in the development of EU legislation is largely missing, or when it does happen, it is ad hoc and tokenistic. When people with intellectual disabilities are invited to participate in events or consultations, they are often not provided with reasonable accommodation to do so. Most of the information required to meaningfully participate is inaccessible to them, and, crucially, the processes and environments remain inflexibly formal.

It is high time this changed. Having signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), the European Union must adhere to the provisions of Article 4, which clearly states it shall “closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations.” This is a point the Inclusion Europe delegation will make this week in Geneva, where the United Nations Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) will conduct a Constructive Dialogue, largely based on the List of Issues it published earlier this year. The Constructive Dialogue is a part of the process of examining the measures taken by the European Union to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are considered in all relevant legislative proposals, as well as in the development of all EU policies, thus complying with the provisions of the UN CRPD.

Inclusion Europe will call for the development of a code of conduct for consultation and involvement of all persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in the decision-making processes of EU institutions. This will require the EU to invest in strengthening the capacity of persons with disabilities in Europe and in concrete measures to develop a greater range of methods and tools. This is expected to include training EU Officials in conducting accessible consultations, supporting the participation of self-advocates in working groups, as well as producing accessible information.

In its Concluding Observations, which will be adopted as a result of the upcoming session and will represent a roadmap for the EU in implementing the CRPD in the future, the CRPD Committee must ask the EU to adapt its consultation processes to meet the requirements of Article 4. Otherwise, people with disabilities will still be paradoxically excluded from the development of the legislation which is meant to protect their needs. The European Institutions must, once and for all, understand that when it comes to laws and policies affecting their lives, the views of people with disabilities are always relevant and they need to be consulted without exception.

For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Manager, at s.enculescu@inclusion-europe.org