Advancing inclusivity for people with disabilities

31 January 2024
Advancing inclusivity for people with disabilities

In this interview,  PES Group member Marko Vešligaj, Mayor of the city of Pregrada (Croatia) and European Committee of the Regions rapporteur on the EU disability card and parking card for persons with disabilities, highlights the essential roles local and regional authorities play in the implementation the European Disability Card (EDC) and the European Parking Card (EPC) . The contribution is part of our #SocialEurope campaign, which showcases how progressive cities and regions are championing social progress, both through their inspiring vision and concrete action. 

What are the key points of the Proposal for directive establishing the European Disability Card (EDC) and European Parking Card (EPC) concerning the local and regional level? 

After years of campaigning by people with disabilities, the European Disability Card (EDC) and the European Parking Card (EPC) are two cards that make the European promise of mobility through the Union more accessible to people with disabilities. The local and regional authorities responsible for issuing and renewing both cards have a key role to play in ensuring swift implementation and thus better accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. To this end, we rely above all on our local and regional authorities as multipliers, who will contribute to the local visibility and awareness of this milestone among people with and without disabilities. 

Which could be the main challenges associated with implementation of the Directive at local and regional levels, and what strategies could be effectively utilised to address these challenges? 

To ensure the successful implementation of EDC and EPC, two principles must be followed: Firstly, neither the target group of people with disabilities nor the local and regional authorities must be confronted with additional financial burdens that could hinder swift implementation. Secondly, technical and material support is required above all to sensitize employees of local and regional authorities to the switch to both cards and to allow the authorities to communicate the information barrier-free through their channels. This is another reason why it is particularly important to us that the realities and experiences of both people with disabilities and the local and regional authorities are taken into greater consideration when reflecting on the subsequent implementation and the identification of possible improvements. 

Given the significant percentage of the EU population with some form of disability, how can young leaders in local communities contribute to promoting barrier-free communication and ensuring that the needs of young people with disabilities are addressed effectively? 

Young people and individuals with disabilities both face the struggle that their perspectives are often not represented or heard in public policy and opinion-shaping. At this point, I see a particular challenge but also an opportunity for our young leaders in local communities to use the introduction of both cards as a reason to seek closer collaboration at the local and regional levels with people with disabilities and to increase their involvement. We must not forget that our young leaders serve as role models, showcasing improved access and visibility within their age group. In doing so, they can significantly contribute to societal awareness that we all share the responsibility to create an inclusive society. 

This interview was originally done in the framework of the CoR Young Elected Politician Programme.


© Photo credits: Unsplash / Jakub Pabis