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European Year of People with Disabilities: a grassroots movement (31/12/2002)

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European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Anna Diamantopoulou, today started the countdown to 2003 by announcing the European Commission’s action plan for the European Year of People with Disabilities in 2003. The European Year aims to drive progress towards achieving equal rights for people with disabilities. Across Europe attention will be focused on the many areas of European society where barriers and discrimination still exist for the one in ten Europeans with a disability.

The European Commission is determined to ensure that disabled people are the main drivers behind the Year’s activities. “This is a people’s campaign which will be run by disabled people for disabled people,” says Commissioner Diamantopoulou. “The European Year will reflect the “nothing about us without us” ethos of disabled people”.

The Commission, in partnership with the European Disability Forum, an umbrella body representing the 37 million disabled people across the EU, are the organisers of the Year the European level. At national level, National Coordinating Bodies have been set up, composed of representatives of disability communities and ministries.

Thousands of activities and events will take place during the year in the different participating countries. They will be linked through a specially designed European Year bus which will start in January 2003 in Athens, and will travel through the 15 EU Member States, with disabled people accompanying the bus on its journeys. The disability community in each country will organise events around the bus’s presence in different cities, towns and villages throughout the EU. These events could include Festivals, debates, partnerships, conferences, protests, parties, lobbying and more… whatever the local disability community decides is the best way to get their message across.

The European Commission is providing tools to facilitate the campaign. eypd2003.org, the Year’s website, and a centre for discussion, exchange of ideas and community building has just been launched. The Commission will provide promotional material – braille T-shirts, pins, stickers and postcards (all developed in collaboration with disabled people). The Commission will provide the European Year bus and equipment, and has appointed a local disability organisation in each country to coordinate activities around the bus. Additionally, the Commission is funding the development and distribution of a campaign handbook, a “how to” guide to campaigning for those at grass roots.

The Commission is also calling on the business world to Get on Board the European Year. ”The European year offers a unique opportunity for the corporate world to show its commitment to achieving equal rights for people with disabilities,” says Commissioner Diamantopoulou. So far, a number of high profile companies have expressed their interest in supporting the aims of the Year.

Commissioner Diamantopoulou concluded her announcement by saying “97% of Europeans think that something should be done to ensure better integration of people with disabilities into society. Let us harness that support and ensure that the European Year is a success”.

For further information, or a press pack contact:
Andrew Fielding
EC Spokesman for Employment & Social Affairs
Tel: 00 32 2 295 96 60
e-mail: andrew.fielding@cec.eu.int

Donald Tait
European Commission – Unit for Integration of people with disabilities
Tel: 00 32 2 299 19 69
e-mail: donald.tait@cec.eu.int

Helena Gonzales-Sancho
European Disability Forum
Tel: 00 32 2 282 46 04
e-mail: communication@edf-feph.org

Heleen Devos
Tel: 00 32 2 545 65 74
e-mail: heleen.devos@ogilvy.be

Published by - December 31, 2002

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