The Agency has participated in a high-level videoconference on the European Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021–2030. The videoconference took place on 19 and 20 April 2021 and was organised by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU).
The Strategy was launched earlier this year. It aims to improve the lives of people with disabilities across the EU and beyond by presenting solutions to the barriers they still face. During the videoconference, the Strategy was introduced and explored within four thematic sessions on accessibility, independent living, employment and inclusive education.
In the session on inclusive education, Agency representative Eloy Rebollo Píriz outlined the Agency’s position on inclusive education. He described how successful inclusive education requires clear legislation, policies and operational structures. He also explained how the Agency can contribute to the Strategy’s implementation:
by supporting countries to develop inclusive schools;
by ensuring that their education systems comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and EU priorities on inclusive education;
through its support for implementing the European Schools Action Plan on Educational Support and Inclusive Education.
João Costa, Portugal’s Deputy Minister for Education, moderated the session. He described how inclusion is everyone’s responsibility and increases society’s richness. He also outlined Portugal’s efforts to create a more inclusive education system, including its work with the Agency and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM).
David Rodrigues, National Counsellor for Education in Portugal, suggested two vital elements for inclusive education systems which reflect the Agency’s perspective: a commitment to inclusion through legislation and the availability of resources for schools, including both funding and more tangible support structures. Elizabeth Gosme from COFACE Families Europe described the SHIFT Guide to Inclusion, and Barbara Janta from RAND reflected on the importance of including learners in discussions and decisions about their education. Sophie Cluzel, French Minister of State for Disabled People, highlighted the important role of inclusive education within the Strategy to benefit all learners.
Ana Sofia Antunes, Portuguese Secretary of State for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, closed the event. She reiterated the importance of ensuring the human rights of all people, including those with disabilities, and particularly following the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. She described the Strategy as visionary and expressed her hope that it will enable a standardised approach to improving the lives of people with disabilities across Europe and beyond.