Recommendation Rec(2006)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the Council of Europe Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society




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4. Cross-cutting aspects
4.1 Introduction
Within the European disabled population there are people with disabilities who face specific barriers or experience two-fold discrimination.
These people have a higher risk of exclusion and generally experience lower levels of participation in society. As such, policy makers need to ensure that their inclusion policies and strategies take into account the needs of specific groups of people with disabilities to ensure their participation in society.
The Malaga Declaration highlights two such groups to be considered throughout this Action Plan – women with disabilities and persons in need of a high level of support. The reports of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women with Disabilities and Persons in Need of a High Level of Support analysed the particular factors unique to these groups and proposed specific actions which cut across many action lines, including independent living, education, employment, etc.3
Other groups which require a cross-cutting response include children with disabilities and ageing persons with disabilities, people with disabilities from minorities (for example Roma, migrants, refugees, displaced persons, or other ethnic, cultural or linguistic minorities). Policy makers need to acknowledge the barriers and challenges faced by each of these groups and ensure that their policies are equipped to remove those barriers and ensure that individuals can reach their full potential alongside other citizens.
4.2 Women and girls with disabilities
Women and girls with disabilities4 can and often do face multiple obstacles to participation in society due to two-fold discrimination, namely on grounds of both gender and disability. Although the general situation of people with disabilities has significantly improved, the benefits of such changes in society are not always equally distributed between women with disabilities and men with disabilities.
The development and implementation of relevant policies and implementation measures should be designed so as to ensure a balance of opportunities between disabled men and women. The specific situation of women and girls with disabilities needs to be taken into account in the development of both disability and gender mainstream policies and programmes at all levels, namely international, national, regional and local.
Action is required to remove obstacles which prevent women with disabilities from enjoying their rights on the same basis as men and other women. This action extends across a broad range of areas including relationships, parenthood, family life, sexuality and protection from violence and abuse. It also includes measures to ensure equal opportunities to participate in political and public life, education, training, employment and social and cultural life. Many of these policy areas are covered by action lines in this Action Plan but must be considered in terms of how factors affecting the participation of women and girls with disabilities can be addressed by member states.
4.3. People with disabilities in need of high level of support5
One of the more vulnerable groups of people with disabilities is the group of individuals with disabilities who, due to the severity and complex nature of their impairment, require a high level of support. Their quality of life is very much dependent on the availability of appropriate and quality services that respond to their and their families’ needs to facilitate their participation in society to the greatest extent possible, rather than a replica of services provided to persons with disabilities generally.
This group tends to be the most likely group to be living in institutional settings or in some cases living with their family but may experience isolation due to little or no contact with service provision and other members of society. For these reasons people of this group require intensive and permanent quality services geared to their specific needs.
Delivery provision needs to be strengthened in order to respond without departing from a model of community based services and equitable access to mainstream provision. Member states need to recognise that this requires intensive planning and co-ordination across relevant authorities, government agencies and service providers both at national and local levels.
4.4. Children and young people with disabilities
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is based on four fundamental principles – the child’s right not be discriminated against; the best interests of the child to be considered in all decisions; the child’s right to life and development; and the right to express its opinion. Boys and girls with disabilities also have the right to access these same rights, member states need to build knowledge about their needs to inform planning, decisions and practices across a wide spectrum of policy areas.
The needs of children with disabilities and their families must be carefully assessed by responsible authorities with a view to providing measures of support which enable children to grow up with their families, to be included in the community and local children’s life and activities. Children with disabilities need to receive education to enrich their lives and enable them to reach their maximum potential.
Quality service provision and family support structures can ensure a rich and developing childhood and lay the foundation for a participative and independent adult life. It is important therefore that policy makers take into account the needs of children with disabilities and their families when designing disability policies and mainstream policies for children and families.
Participation and active citizenship is about having the right, the means, the space and the opportunity and where necessary the support to participate in and influence decisions and engage in actions and activities so as to contribute to building a better society. Youth disability organisations should be consulted in the preparation of youth policy and programmes. The voices of young people with disabilities should be heard in all matters which concern them.
Young people with disabilities still face considerable barriers in accessing all aspects of their life: education, work, sports, culture, entertainment, and community life. These issues can only be addressed on the basis of a comprehensive strategy. Ways to ensuring their full participation in society, taking into account their specific needs, must be addressed in the preparation of any youth policy. In accordance with the European Charter on the participation of young people in local and regional life, the active participation of young people in decisions and actions at local and regional level is essential for building more democratic, inclusive and prosperous societies.
4.5. Ageing of people with disabilities
The ageing of people with disabilities, particularly those requiring more intensive support due to the nature of their impairment, presents new challenges for societies across Europe. This includes support for individuals and for their families especially where elderly parents are the main carers. Innovative approaches are required to meet these challenges across a wide range of policy and service areas. Council of Europe reports identify key issues for this group and proposals for the way forward. Co-ordinated action which can respond to specific needs with the aim of enabling ageing people with disabilities to remain in their community to the greatest extent possible. This requires an assessment of individual needs and forward planning as well as the availability of required services. Disability issues should also be taken into account when designing policies for older people.
It is considered that these issues and factors affecting the participation of ageing people with disabilities in daily life and activities should be taken into account when devising actions across the action lines set out in this Action Plan.6
4.6. People with disabilities from minorities and migrants
People with disabilities from minority groups, disabled migrants and refugees may experience multiple disadvantages because of discrimination or lack of familiarity with public services.
As an example, despite increased attention paid to Roma in Europe, further action is needed to recognise their status as full and equal members of society. Inside their own community, disabled people are considered as invisible and are therefore a specifically vulnerable group.
Education, employment, social health services and cultural life are particularly important areas to address for all groups.
Member states should ensure that support for people with disabilities takes account of their language or cultural background and the particular needs of such minority groups.
5. Implementation and follow-up
5.1. Introduction
The governments of member states have the primary responsibility for implementing disability policies at national level, and in particular for implementing the specific actions referring to them under each action line.
This Action Plan acknowledges that anti-discrimination policy, administrative machinery, resources, demography, etc., differ from country to country. It therefore allows member states to decide national priorities and to take a progressive approach to implementation by whatever means are appropriate to them.
It is intended that when implementing the specific actions contained within this Action Plan, that member states will take full account of:
– the principles underpinning the Action Plan, including in particular the rights of individuals to protection against discrimination, to equal opportunities and to the respect of their rights as citizens;
– cross-cutting aspects including the specific needs of women and girls with disabilities, children and young people with disabilities, people with disabilities in need of a high level of support, ageing people with disabilities, migrants with disabilities and people with disabilities from minorities, in addition to the crucial role that quality services and training play in relation to the provision of services to people with disabilities;
– the involvement of representative disability organisations in all stages of implementation, monitoring and evaluation at European, national, regional and local levels which is considered a key element.
5.1.1 Universal Design
Equality of access is essential for the development of a fully inclusive society. The design of buildings, the environment, products, communication and electronic systems is particularly important to facilitate the participation and independence of people with disabilities in all aspects of life.
Universal Design is an effective way to improve the accessibility and the quality of the built environment, services and products. It focuses on the importance of ensuring that design of the environment, buildings and everyday products is right from the start rather than adapting them at a later stage. Whilst it may not always be possible to make older or historic buildings completely accessible, there are still too many obstacles that impede disabled people from taking part in all aspects of society and making use of all its facilities. Promoting the principle of Universal Design, its wide application and user participation in all design stages is of paramount importance for improving the accessibility of the built environment, transport and communication systems and the usability of products.
5.1.2. Quality of services and training of staff
Quality and training are key principles which underpin the action lines in this Plan. Many European countries are already systematically working on improving quality of services and training of staff and personnel. It is considered essential that all policies, services and actions be underpinned by high quality standards and delivered by competent, trained personnel. People with disabilities should be the focal point of the services provided. Client satisfaction should be the primary motivation for viable quality policies. It is vitally important that people with disabilities, the service users, should be active participants in quality assurance and monitoring of services.
Training is also an essential element of quality service. This not only includes appropriate training for the personnel involved in service delivery, both disability specific and mainstream services, but also for those who have a role in developing policies which affect the lives of people with disabilities. Training should incorporate awareness of the human rights of people with disabilities.
5.1.3. Mainstreaming or sector responsibility
A mainstreaming approach, or sector responsibility, in policy development and service delivery plays an important role in promoting a more inclusive society and is a key, underlying principle of this Action Plan. Mainstreaming involves the integration of services for people with disabilities with those for other citizens. The goal is to move away from policies which support segregation towards integration in the mainstream wherever possible. However, mainstreaming does not preclude the existence of disability specific policies, where they are in the best interests of persons with disabilities (the so called twin-track approach).
In practice this approach means that disability policies are no longer seen as solely the responsibility of a specific ministry or department. It is the responsibility of all ministries to ensure that their initiatives take into account the rights of persons with disabilities. Co-ordination across and between government sectors and the creation of a focal point for all disability issues should be promoted to enhance and develop the mainstream approach.
5.2. Implementation
The governments of member states have the primary responsibility for implementing disability policies at national level, and in particular for implementing the specific actions referring to them under each action line.
Member states should start with an evaluation of their existing disability policy programmes and underlying basic principles against the blueprint of the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan to identify in which areas progress has yet to be made and which specific actions will have to be carried out.
Based on that evaluation member states should set up strategies to ensure that their own co-ordinated disability policy programmes, strategies and actions are progressively advanced in line with the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan and national financial resources.
The prioritisation and the establishment of a timetable to progress measures outlined are the responsibilities of each member state.
It is important that the implementation of the Plan by member states is supported by a co-ordinated approach involving relevant stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations of people with disabilities, as appropriate.
As part of the implementation, member states should consider the issue of the definition of disability, as appropriate.
Member states will translate the Action Plan into their official languages and make these translations available in alternative formats. Member states will promote the Action Plan involving all relevant stakeholders in order to ensure long-term support.
Upon request, the Council of Europe will assist member states with implementing the Action Plan. Member states should consider co-operation with the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and present bankable projects aimed at implementing the Action Plan at national level.
5.3. Follow-up
The governments of member states have the primary responsibility for the follow-up to be given to the Council of Europe Action Plan at national level, where they decide on appropriate review and follow-up arrangements. To that end, member states should consult with relevant stakeholders, in particular non-governmental organisations of people with disabilities.
At European level, the follow-up of this Action Plan should focus on strengthening co-operation in the field of disability and should allow for effective exchange of information, experience and best practice in a structured way.
Effective follow-up to this Action Plan requires member states to regularly provide the Council of Europe with relevant information. In that context, national government reports to parliament, as well as reports and surveys provided by non-governmental organisations, are of particular interest and relevance.
The forum designated to follow up the Action Plan will manage that process, including the necessary procedures, the establishment of a timetable and a possible mid-term review.
This forum could suggest to member states specific priority issues to be analysed in depth. It will ensure that the Committee of Ministers is regularly informed about progress made in the implementation of this Action Plan.
International non-governmental organisations of people with disabilities will participate in this process within the given rules of procedure. Furthermore, other relevant stakeholders could be invited to contribute to the process, in a way to be specified in the terms of reference for the designated forum.

Appendix 1 to the Action Plan
Malaga Ministerial Declaration on People with disabilities

Progressing towards full participation as citizens”


(Adopted at the Second European Conference of Ministers

responsible for integration policies for people with disabilities,

Malaga, Spain, 7-8 May 2003)

1. We, the Ministers responsible for integration policies for people with disabilities, gathered from 7 to 8 May 2003 in Malaga on invitation of the Spanish Government, at the Second European Conference of Ministers, organised by the Council of Europe,


1. Aware of:
2. the Council of Europe’s aim, as enshrined in its Statute, is “to achieve greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress”;
3. the outcome of the first Conference of Ministers responsible for policies for people with disabilities, held in Paris, 7 and 8 November 1991, entitled “Independent Living for people with disabilities”, which led the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to adopt Recommendation No. R (92) 6 on a coherent policy for people with disabilities;
4. the fact that protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and their full enjoyment are essential for the active participation of people with disabilities in society, and that the principle of equality of opportunities for people with disabilities represents a basic value shared by all Council of Europe member states;
5. the contribution of the European disability movement to the Council of Europe Second Ministerial Conference on disability “From words to deeds”, adopted at the European NGO Forum on 8 April 2003 in Madrid;
6. the existence of substantial variations among Council of Europe member states as regards their political, economic and social situation and of the fact that a number of countries, particularly those with economies in transition, may be less well equipped to meet the demands of modern disability policies and need more advice and further assistance;
7. the fact that policies for people with disabilities are faced with certain political, economic, social, demographic, cultural and technological challenges, since, in the last decade, Europe has been undergoing various changes, which affect the quality of life of the population and raise multiple challenges whilst offering new opportunities for the development of coherent policies for people with disabilities;
8. the fact that two aspects are especially relevant in relation to people with disabilities: on the one hand, the increasing number of the European elderly population, which must be taken into account in any future strategy for social cohesion, based on prevention of dependency on support services over the life course and preservation of quality of life in old age; on the other hand, the fact that, as result of scientific advances in the health field and the improvement of living conditions, persons with physical and mental impairments live longer and fuller lives, generating new needs in relation to the provision of services, economic support and protection of their human rights;
9. the fact that 2003 has been proclaimed European Year of People with Disabilities by the European Union, and that its main aim is to raise awareness of the rights of people with disabilities to equal opportunities and promote full and equal enjoyment of these rights;
10. the works of the UN Ad Hoc Committee “to consider proposals for a comprehensive and integral international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities”;
11. the work carried out by the Council of Europe Committee on the Rehabilitation and Integration of People with disabilities, enhancing intergovernmental co-operation in the framework of the Partial Agreement in the Social and Public Health Field;
12. the achievements of the Council of Europe and other international organisations, institutions or events as listed in the Appendix to this Declaration;
2. Reaffirm:
13. our commitment to securing human rights and fundamental freedoms for everyone under our countries’ jurisdiction, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, and that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and with a potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of society, and that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law;
14. that arrangements for the full and effective implementation of all human rights, as enshrined in European and other international human rights instruments, must be applicable without any discrimination or distinction on any ground, including disability;
15. our will expressed in the 1st Conference of Ministers responsible for policies for people with disabilities, held in Paris in 1991, to promote a coherent and integrated policy for persons with disabilities, and that Recommendation No. R (92) 6 on “A coherent policy for people with disabilities” has inspired countries to adopt legislative and policy measures leading to progress on the way to full participation, and that it is a basic reference document which should serve as a platform for future action;
16. that enhancing citizenship and full participation of people with disabilities requires empowerment of the individual so that he/she can take control of his/her own life, which may require specific support measures;
3. Consider:
17. that our main aim in the next decade is to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families, putting the emphasis on their integration and full participation in society, since a participative and accessible society is of benefit to the whole population;
18. that measures aimed at improving the quality of life of people with disabilities should be based on a sound assessment of their situation, potential and needs, developing innovative approaches in services, taking account of their preferences, entitlements and circumstances;
19. that appropriate strategy to reach this aim should be expressed in a future Action Plan to promote the elimination of all forms of discrimination against people with disabilities of all ages, with special focus on disabled women and people with disabilities in need of a high level of support, so that they will all be able to enjoy their human rights, fundamental freedoms and full citizenship;
20. that it is necessary to adopt an integrated approach towards the elaboration of national and international disability policies and legislation, and to duly reflect the needs of people with disabilities in all relevant fields of policies, particularly in key areas such as access to housing, education, vocational guidance and training, employment, the built environment, public transport, information, health care, and social protection;
21. that it is a basic objective to develop economic, social, educative, employment, environmental and health measures in order to maintain every disabled individual’s maximum capacity over the life course and in order to help prevent disability;
22. that education is a basic instrument of social integration and efforts should be made to give the opportunity to children with disabilities to attend a mainstream school, if it is in the interest of the child, to facilitate the transition from school or higher education to employment, and to develop the concept of life-long learning;
23. that equality of access to employment is a key element for social participation; therefore progress should be made towards the integration of people with disabilities in the labour market, preferably in the open market, shifting our focus to assessing abilities and implementing active policies, and that having a diverse workforce by promoting access of people with disabilities in the ordinary labour markets is an added value for society;
24. it vital to understand the social nature of technology and to make the best use of the potential of new technologies, with the aim of increasing autonomy and interactions of people with disabilities in all areas of life;
25. that as a result of scientific advances in the health field and the improvement of living conditions, persons with physical, psychological and intellectual impairments live longer, generating new needs and challenges in relation to the provision of care services, which should be met with innovative approaches;
26. the need to ensure that the benefits of living longer do not result in an increasingly higher number of persons dependent on support services, by fostering, among the population from an early age, healthy habits and life conditions which enable a good state of physical and mental health at a later stage in life;
27. that progress is required to provide for the removal of barriers and the adoption of the universal design principle to ensure that new barriers are not created;
28. that there is a small but growing number of people with disabilities in need of a high level of support and we therefore recognise the need to strengthen structures around those individuals and their families without departing from a model of community-based services;
29. that the situation of women with disabilities in Europe deserves higher visibility and more specific attention in order to guarantee their independence, autonomy, participation and social integration and that action taken should support a gender mainstreaming approach to disability policy development;
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