MARCH 2003

MARCH 2003 - Europe's first comprehensive Disability Rights Law is unveiled, and a press release is issued by the European Disability Forum...

MARCH 2003

A proposal for a European Union law which for the first time prohibits discrimination against disabled people in housing, education, transport and all in all its other forms, was be unveiled at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday 12 March 2003.

The proposal for a new directive, unveiled by the President of the European Disability Forum, Yannis Vardakastanis and the President of the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament, Richard Howitt MEP, had been drawn up over a two year period by the representatives of the European disability movement and human rights lawyers, currently campaigning to win political support for its agreement during the European Year of People with Disabilities 2003.

Before then, in most EU countries legislation relating to disabled people was contained in provisions that form part of a broader law, for example on transport, education or social security.

The new piece of legislation, the first of its kind at Community level, will radically change the lives of disabled people and their families in the European Union, since it will render discrimination of disabled people illegal in all areas of life. The Disability specific directive will cover, besides equal treatment at the workplace, social protection, healthcare, social advantages, education, access to goods, facilities and services, disability portrayal in the media, design for all products. It will also introduce enforcement procedures to ensure that disabled people can effectively exercise their rights in all EU Member States, including the right to go to court.

"Disabled people want legislation that eliminates existing barriers in society and prevents new ones. The legal base for such a Directive exists. Disabled people and EDF, as the representative voice of 50 million disabled people in Europe, call upon the EU institutions to commit to this draft EU Directive this year, 2003, the European Year of People with Disabilities.", said Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum.

Richard Howitt MEP, President of the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament which has played a crucial role in providing the necessary political support for the promotion of the new directive said: "After the adoption of the EU Race Discrimination Directive in 1997, there was a promise that other forms of discrimination would not be forgotten, and the European Year of Disabled People in 2003 marks the time to honour that promise. Disability legislation in many European countries dates from the time of aid to the veterans of the First World War. It is now time to update the law to reflect a modern human rights approach".

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