Policy papers

A new decade of making cities disability-inclusive

5 February 2021

The inclusion of people with disabilities is promoted in the European Union through principle 17 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the wake of the new European Disability Strategy 2021-2030, this Eurocities report sheds light on the efforts made by local authorities to step up the inclusion of people with. It covers 22 cities, divided across 14 EU member states and considers the impact of Covid-19 on people with disabilities, as well as city efforts during the pandemic to ensure no one is left behind.

As the level of government closest to people, cities play an essential role in turning the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights into a reality in the everyday lives of people with disabilities. Local strategies for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and principle 17 of the European Pillar of Social Rights have allowed the mainstreaming of disability into different policy areas, ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities are taken into account in all decisions at local level. Cities also put universal design at the centre of renovations to adapt the built environment and make public life accessible to all. Moreover, local authorities support the employment of people with disabilities and their education and skills acquisition for a better transition into the job market. Finally, cities promote the right to independent living and the transition from institutional to community-based care by investing in community-based alternatives and personal assistance.

However, city efforts are hampered by a variety of obstacles. A lack of affordable and accessible housing combined with poor funding for community living and insufficient qualified care personnel make it difficult to achieve deinstitutionalisation. Cities also face challenges when making buildings and public areas accessible. High unemployment rates of people with disabilities and their concentration in low-paid jobs, influenced by the inflexibility of education and skills certification systems also restrict full integration and independence. Scarce cooperation across government levels prevents the capacity building and cooperation that is essential for a successful inclusion of people with disabilities. On top of these, the Covid-19 crisis has revealed the vulnerability of people with disabilities, as their access to health and social care services was compromised, isolation led to a high risk of social exclusion, and information on the health measures was not always provided in an accessible way.

The report presents policy recommendations that can support the implementation of the forthcoming European Disability Strategy 2021-2030. The EU approach to disability inclusion should put a stronger focus on working with the local level and streamline EU funds for a better access from local authorities. Stronger investments are needed especially in digitisation and assistive technologies and social infrastructure. The EU should promote collaboration with the private sector, by establishing a ‘European Compact’ to bring private companies on board to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. It should also make fostering independent living and community-based services a priority, by promoting investments in social infrastructure and local services. Lastly, the new EU strategy should push for more inclusive labour markets and education programmes for people with disabilities, as well as stimulate the development of professional pathways for carers and the improvement of their working conditions.

You can read the full report here

Find out more about Eurocities work making cities inclusive places for all here