Approximately 15% of the world’s population experience a form of disability (World Bank, 2023) and are most likely to face discrimination and socioeconomic exclusion than people without disabilities. Poverty, restrictive access to adequate health services, education or employment represent just some of the challenges that people with disabilities experience anywhere in the world. Among the barriers that facilitate this climate of exclusion are inaccessible physical environments, existing policies and legal framework, social barriers related to employment, education and personal safety, communication barriers which affect reading, writing, hearing, speaking and understanding, stereotypes, stigma, prejudice and discrimination towards people with disabilities;
We, as AEGEE-Europe, believe that it is imperative to take comprehensive measures towards eliminating these barriers and combatting discrimination. Empowering people with disabilities should be at the core of our efforts for building an inclusive society. We must ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to public services, employment and educational opportunities. We must challenge those stereotypes and prejudices that facilitate a climate of exclusion, confront our own ableism and advocate for inclusive policies and programmes for all. Therefore, the Social Equity Working Group called upon action during their Action Week (Instagram: @se.aegee). The campaign has shown, it is important to celebrate diversity, to cultivate empathy and understanding. People with disabilities should be embraced as equal members of society and their unique experiences should be considered. We should strive for raising awareness, promoting dialogue and facilitating a space where people with disabilities can share their stories and fully exercise their rights.
We call upon governments to:
- adapt existing legislation and enact new policy frameworks that contribute to combatting all forms of discrimination and safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities;
- ensure access to equal and quality education for all, regardless of their disability, should facilitate inclusive learning environments and promote accessibility, organise training for teachers and awareness-raising activities and materials, to combat bullying and discrimination in schools;
- work towards eliminating programmatic barriers that restrict access to health services, establishing inclusive public health systems and accommodating existing programmes to the needs of people with disabilities.
We call upon private sector representatives, in collaboration with national and local authorities to:
- work towards eliminating barriers to employment, including recruitment, training opportunities and career advancement, encourage employers to create inclusive workspaces and facilitate the recruitment of people with disabilities in all sectors.
We call upon civil society representatives, governments and individuals to:
- develop raising-awareness campaigns and events, challenge stereotypes and prejudice, celebrate people with disabilities and facilitate mutual understanding in society.
We, as AEGEEans, want to act as an idol for young Europeans to strive for the inclusion of people with disabilities in youth organisations and to fight against ableist structures.