European Disability Strategy 2021-2030

The European Disability Strategy 2021-2030

Source: European Commission

The Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 was launched by the European Commission in 2021 with the aim to improve the condition of persons with disabilities in the EU over the next ten years, making sure that they can fully enjoy their rights, have equal opportunities and access to society and economy, can decide where, how and with whom they live and can move freely in the EU regardless of their support needs.

The Strategy belongs to a series of programmes aiming at achieving a Union of Equality where everyone is included regardless of gender, race, ethnic minorities or disability, as well as at mainstreaming equality in all EU policies. Examples of other equality strategies are the EU anti-racism Action Plan 2020-2025, the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and the Gender Equality Strategy. 

The Disability Strategy is also part of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, the key current policy framework for employment and social policies in Europe. Moreover, it takes into account the consequences that the pandemic has had on persons with disabilities and it supports the achievement of fair and inclusive green and digital transitions, which are set to make the Union more sustainable, resilient, prosperous and fair for all. At the international level, the Strategy is a key instrument to promote the implementation at both EU and national level of and compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which the European Union together with all Member States is a party. 

Priorities and flagship initiatives

The Strategy has 7 priorities, which cover all aspects of life of people with disabilities:

  1. Accessibility of good and services, built and virtual environments and transport;
  2. Enjoying EU rights, including moving freely across Member States and supporting electoral participation of persons with disabilities;
  3. Decent quality of life and living independently, with a focus on autonomy, community inclusion, access to the open labour market, inclusive VET and social protection;
  4. Equal access and non-discrimination in justice, culture, sports, education, health and housing;
  5. Promoting the rights of persons with disabilities globally, with the EU taking a more active role in international cooperation and external action, with special attention to children and persons with disabilities in conflict areas;
  6. Efficiently delivering the Strategy, ensuring internal coordination actions within all EU institutions and agencies, compliance of European policymaking with the UNCRPD and stronger coordination and cooperation between EU institutions and Member States; 
  7. Leading by example, with the European Commission committing to becoming more inclusive in terms of human resources and buildings accessibility, while ensuring monitoring with new indicators and reinforcing data collection to address the gaps identified by the evaluation of the previous strategy.

These priorities will be brought into action through 7 flagship initiatives: the introduction of a Disability Platform (2021), where the main EU actors working on disability can share expertise and monitor progress, the design of a new human resources strategy for the Commission, the launch of a European package on employment for persons with disabilities and the resource centre Accessible EU (2022), the introduction of a European disability card and the development of Guidance on Independent Living  (2023), and a Framework for Social Services of Excellence to improve the quality of community-based services (2024). 

The monitoring framework

Learning from the shortcomings of the previous Strategy, the European Commission introduced in 2021 a monitoring framework to better follow and evaluate the progress of the various actions of the Strategy. It is a system available online where everyone can check the progress of the Strategy. The progress of Member States in implementing the Strategy is based on more effective collection of statistical data, which was another issue of the 2010-2020 Strategy. The data gathered contribute both to the reporting on the implementation of the UNCRPD and to the mid-term report of the Disability Strategy, according to which the Commission will decide whether to fine-tune some actions to improve results. 

EU funds for the Strategy

Members States are encouraged to use EU funds to implement the Strategy and the UNCRPD at national level. Available funding include ESF+, the European Regional Development Fund, Erasmus+ and the Just Transition Fund. Through them, the EU aims to support socio-economic inclusion of persons with disabilities, inclusive education and healthcare, access to services and deinstitutionalization at national level. For most of these funds, Member States have to meet “enabling conditions”, which are set to create the right environment for investment. One of these conditions is a national framework for the implementation of the UNCRPD, which includes the criteria of accessibility. 

Additional funding opportunities can be provided by NextGenerationEU and the Recovery and Resilience Facility. Member States can also access the Technical Support Instrument to get technical expertise. The European Commission is also working to promoting a disability-inclusive perspective also in other programmes such as Horizon Europe and Invest EU.