European Passengers’ Federation Board Member, Willy Smeulders, represented EPF at the launch event of the new European Disability Card on the 6th of September, 2023. The event, held jointly by the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the Royal Museums of Art and History, marked a significant step towards enhancing the rights and accessibility of persons with disabilities.
The launch event, which took place at the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, aimed to introduce the proposal for the new European Disability Card by the European Commission which was announced on the 6th of September, 2023. This card is a pilot project currently implemented in eight countries, designed to grant recognition of disability for accessing cultural, sports, leisure activities, and transport services. The goal is to expand the reach of the European Disability Card to all EU countries, promoting freedom of movement and equal access across various domains beyond culture, sports, and leisure.
The proposed European Disability Card envisions several essential features, as outlined by EDF in a position paper from 2022:
- Binding Legislation – it should be based on binding legislation, specifically a Regulation;
- Inclusion of Transport Services – mandatory inclusion of transport services and support, including free or reduced fares and assistance, as well as free or reduced fares for accompanying persons;
- EU-Level Website – an EU-level website available in all EU languages to provide practical details for every country, including where to obtain the Card, its format, and a database of benefits and accepting locations;
- Accessibility – the Card should be fully accessible and have a “Credit Card” format;
- Comprehensive Scope – it should cover all areas of services and support provided for national citizens beyond culture, leisure, and sports, such as commercial benefits, education, and employment.
EPF fully supports these features, as they are essential for ensuring the Card’s effectiveness and promote inclusivity.
During the event, Willy Smeulders had the opportunity to hear from key figures, including Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality, who presented the proposal. Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, shared reactions to the proposal and the expectations of the disability community. Anne-Sophie Van Haeperen from the Royal Museums of Art and History discussed current efforts and the accessibility of culture.
Willy Smeulders’ participation at this event underscores EPF’s commitment to promoting the rights and well-being of all individuals, including those with disabilities. We recognise and applaud the efforts of EDF and all involved stakeholders in advancing the cause of persons with disabilities in Europe.