European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs & Equal Opportunities




People with disabilitiesAs full citizens, people with disabilities have equal rights and are entitled to dignity, equal treatment, independent living and full participation in society. Enabling people with disabilities to enjoy these rights is the main purpose of the EU's long-term strategy for their active inclusion. Centre piece of the European Disability Strategy (2004-2010) is the Disability Action Plan (DAP). By 2010, the European Commission wants to see improvements in employment prospects, accessibility and independent living. Disabled people are involved in the process on the basis of the European principle: 'Nothing about disabled people without disabled people'.

The EU promotes the active inclusion and full participation of disabled people in society, in line with the EU human rights approach to disability issues. Disability is a rights issue and not a matter of discretion. This approach is also at the core of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, to which the European Community is a signatory.


People with disabilities represent around one sixth of the overall EU working age population but their employment rate is comparatively low. Disabled people are almost twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people. Yet, with a little more help, millions of disabled Europeans could enter or re-enter the jobs market.

The EU Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs aims in particular to improve the comparatively low work participation rates of Europe's disabled people.

Member States set their own employment policies on the basis of the European Employment Strategy (EES) guidelines. They report back yearly to the European Commission on national employment initiatives, including those for disability.

The EU policy work on Social Protection and Social Inclusion supports Member States in developing policy for social inclusion, healthcare and social services, thereby increasing the chances for disabled people to find and keep work.


Equal access to quality education and lifelong learning enable disabled people to participate fully in society and improve their quality of life.

The European Commission supports the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education. It has launched several educational initiatives for disabled persons. These include the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, as well as a specific study group on disability and lifelong learning. Community Programmes like the Lifelong Learning programme are bringing the education and training of disabled people into the mainstream.


The aim is to provide disabled people with the same individual choices and control in their daily lives as non-disabled people. Care and support services are to be more tailored to the specific needs of people with disabilities. The European Commission promotes affordable, accessible and quality social services, and support through consolidated social and inclusion provisions.

The EU also supports the case for the de-institutionalisation of disabled people. The European Commission funds studies on the delivery of community-based services needed by disabled people to attain the right levels of security, freedom and independence for community living.