Freedom of movement across Europe is a “complete illusion” for disabled people, according to Europe’s leading disabled people’s organisation.
The European Disability Forum (EDF) spoke out as it announced its decision to launch a major campaign calling for a new European mobility card, which would make it easier for disabled people to travel across the continent and even live in different European Union (EU) countries.
Campaigners say freedom of movement is guaranteed by EU treaties, and that a European mobility card would allow disabled people from the UK to enjoy the same concessions as disabled people in other EU countries when they were travelling through or living in those countries.
These benefits could include reduced fares or priority seating on public transport, exemptions from toll road charges, and reduced fares at the theatre, opera and museums.
Earlier this month, the European Commission raised the possibility of introducing a mobility card when it launched its new European Disability Strategy.
An EDF spokeswoman said they believed their proposal was “very realistic” as the commission had already started working on a possible mobility card, or “disability card”, as the commission calls it.
The commission’s disability strategy also raised the possibility of exploring the “portability” of disability benefits, which could mean that disabled people who moved from one EU country to another could be eligible for disability benefits available in the new country.
Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF’s president, said a mobility card would be an “essential tool” in guaranteeing freedom of movement for disabled people.
And he said the commission’s plans for a European Accessibility Act would also be a “crucial instrument” in guaranteeing the right to free movement for the estimated 80 million disabled people in the EU, and would also be part of the new campaign.
Jokke Rombauts, president of the Belgian High National Council on Disability, added: “Right now, freedom of movement is a complete illusion for persons with disabilities. This reality is a contradiction with the values of the EU.”
30 November 2010