As part of our Debating Europe Schools project, and in cooperation with our partners at the European Disability Forum and the European Union of the Deaf, today we want to look at some of the issues surrounding disability, discrimination and accessibility in European society.
One in six people in the EU today lives with a disability. Despite this, people with disabilities are one of the most excluded groups in Europe, facing huge difficulties with mobility and access to education, healthcare and other services.
The EU treaties guarantee the fundamental right to freedom of movement across borders. All European citizens have the right to move, work, study, and provide or receive goods and services in any other EU Member State. However, many Europeans with disabilities aren’t able to enjoy these rights.
Whilst we talk a lot about “European values” on Debating Europe, the European Disability Forum says: “The free movement of persons in the European Union is just an ideal for us, because most of the time barriers prevent us from leaving [our own homes].”
Recently, we were sent some video questions recorded by students at the Stefan Decanski school for the hearing impaired in Belgrade, Serbia (a country which is currently negotiating membership of the European Union). You can find the second part here.
We took their questions to David Hay from the European Union of the Deaf, Aurélie Baranger, Director of Autism Europe, and Ádám Kósa, a Hungarian politician and the first MEP to use Deaf Sign Language in the European Parliament.
- Is enough being done to support hearing impaired people in learning sign language?
Our first question came from Marko and Nataša, who wanted to know if enough was being done across Europe to support hearing impaired people in learning sign language.
We put this question to David Hay from the European Union of the Deaf. How would he respond?
David Hay says the situation varies drastically between countries. However, all countries agree there is a serious shortage of sign language interpreters in Europe.
We also spoke with Ádám Kósa, the first deaf MEP from Hungary. What would he say?
Kósa agreed with David Hay that the level of support is different from country to country, with some schools struggling to cope with the number of pupils while others deliver an excellent level of education. In his own country, Hungary, he explained that hearing impaired students must, by law, be taught sign language first before learning spoken and written communication.
- Are people with disabilities properly integrated into mainstream education systems in the EU?
Our next question came from Marko and Ljubica, who wanted to know whether children with special needs were being included in the mainstream education system in EU countries. We put this question to Aurélie Baranger, Director of Autism Europe. How would she respond?
We put the same question to Ádám Kósa. What would he say to Marko and Ljubica?
Is enough being done to guarantee people with disabilities have access to education systems in the EU? Should more effort be made to integrate students with disabilities into mainstream education systems? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.