FEEDBACK – Removing barriers to mobility for persons with disabilities in Europe and developing countries

Posted by: on Oct 1, 2018 | No Comments

On 20th September 2018 in Brussels, the European Commission, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) and the European Disability Forum (EDF) held a conference at the DEVCO InfoPoint, entitled “Mobility in cities that leave no one behind, Perspectives from persons with disabilities in Europe and the Global South.

Inclusive mobility: a universal challenge

By 2050, it is estimated that 66% of the world population will live in urban areas, with the majority of urban growth in developing countries. 15% of cities population are persons with disabilities; not a marginal number. Without safe and inclusive mobility, a large number of vulnerable road users, including cyclists, pedestrians, persons with disabilities, older persons and children, are exposed to considerable health risks. In these rapidly growing cities, no one should be left behind.

The InfoPoint session was organised in the context of the European mobility week, that is engaging towns and cities all over Europe to. With the support of the Commission, HI and EDF aimed to turn  the spotlight on persons with disabilities, who face many barriers in their daily travel, in Europe, and even more so, in developing countries. These barriers jeopardize their participation in society, and their access to services and opportunities, such as education or employment. Safe and inclusive mobility is therefore a crucial component for achieving sustainable development, especially SDG 11 on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Panel of the DEVCO InfoPoint on safe and inclusive mobility

Panel of the DEVCO InfoPoint on safe and inclusive mobility.

About 40 persons from diverse backgrounds – civil society, governments, donors, and academia- attended the infopoint conference to discuss these perspectives with the five panellists:

  • Cécile Grosjean, Disability focal point, DG DEVCO – Migration, Employment,
  • Paolo Ciccarelli, Head of Unit, DG DEVCO – Cities, Local Authorities, Digitalisation, Infrastructure,
  • Inmaculada Placencia Porrero, Senior disability expert, DG EMPL – Disability and Inclusion,
  • Marie Denninghaus, Policy coordinator, European Disability Forum,
  • Blandine Bouniol, Deputy Director for Advocacy, Humanity & Inclusion.

 Inclusive mobility, a transversal issue for European external cooperation

In her opening remarks, Cécile Grosjean, from DG DEVCO, introduced the topic highlighting that:

“85% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries and 90% of urban growth is taking place in Asia and Africa. The European Mobility Week is a great opportunity to address mobility issues in cities in Europe and the rest of the world.”

Ms Grosjean reminded that the European Union has ratified the United Nations Convention on Right of Persons with Disabilities, and is therefore obliged to implement it in Europe but also in its external cooperation. Thus the European Commission funds about 350 projects to enhance full social participation of persons with disabilities, accessibility of transport, information and communications, in developing countries. Ms Grosjean emphasised that the European action is fully rooted ted in the 2030 Agenda and the EU Consensus on Development,  which includes explicit commitments to disability rights, and that has been endorsed by the EU institutions and member states.

How to improve the mobility of persons with disabilities in Europe and developing countries?

EU representatives provided examples of European projects aiming to improve inclusion in cities. Paolo Ciccarelli presented the efforts undertaken by the Commission to support cities achieving sustainable development. Notably, he announced an upcoming programme to strengthen the capacity of local authorities, include to improve the inclusion persons with disabilities.

An instrument to improve the accessibility of the European labour market through digitalization was presented by Inmaculada Placencia Porrero. This includes addressing the need to ensure equal access to transport, communication and information, so that  persons with disabilities can have a better access to work.

“Digital barriers are the same as in the physical environment and are major issues for access to decent work. Connections in virtual environment must be improved as well as physical connexion. ”

In Europe and beyond, Marie Denninghaus, from EDF, reminded the audience that the SDGs must be implemented in the light of the Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), notably through Article 9 (accessibility), Article 11 (Situations of risk & humanitarian emergencies), Article 19 (Living independently and being included in the community), Article 29:  (Participation in political and public life) and Article 30 (Participation in cultural life, recreation. leisure and sport). EDF emphasises the need for a holistic approach, going beyond individual locations to encompass the urban space as a whole, and to address the key barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities, such as accessibility of transport, built environment, and information and communication (see EDF policy brief).

Inclusive mobility = Safe mobility

Based on the latest advocacy study on “Making Cities Inclusive: Safe Mobility for Persons with Disabilities in Developing Countries”, Blandine Bouniol from  HI,  emphasised that accessibility, road safety and inclusive mobility are intrinsically linked. These dimensions must be considered together to improve roads and infrastructure for all vulnerable users, who represent 46% of road traffic casualties. Ms Bouniol shared feedback from some HI projects implemented in Laos, Vietnam and Nepal.Persons with disabilities face many different barriers, that are not only physical, like getting onto buses, but also relating to crime, abuses and sexual harassment. The conference at the DEVCO Infopoint confirmed the need for all stakeholders to join hands to design and implement inclusive policies, especially addressing road safety and accessibility at the levels of the built environment and transports. All panelists agreed that safe and inclusive mobility is urgently needed as a cross-cutting element to leave no one behind in cities.

To see the full conference, click here.