Slovenia is one of the more active countries in the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities and, as the country presiding the Council of the EU, strongly supports the participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society in the EU. We believe that today's conference that is dedicated to increasing multimodal mobility and accessibility, which are crucial to increasing the participation and empowerment of persons with disabilities in society, will also contribute to this.
Minister Cigler Kralj said: "The rights of people with disabilities are a fundamental value of the European Union. There are 87 million people with disabilities in the EU. We have to ensure that they can live independently and have equal opportunities, good working conditions and the opportunity to fully participate in society. This is the only way to build a fair and sustainable society, especially in the context of structural changes that we will witness in the future." The President of the European Disability Forum, Yannis Vardakastanis, pointed out that the "Presidencies of the European Union are important opportunities to address the significant barriers that persons with disabilities still face and enable them to fully enjoy their human rights and rights as EU citizens".
The conference focused first on the importance of multimodal mobility and accessibility to the outdoor and indoor built environment, information technology and transport. The President of National Council of Disabled People's Organisations of Slovenia, Borut Sever, pointed out that "although accessibility is specifically regulated by Article 9 of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), the theme of accessibility is present throughout the Convention. Equal access, transport and information and communication technologies are a prerequisite for the social activation of persons with disabilities".
In continuation, some countries presented their experiences with the EU Disability Card project, including Slovenia, which took a comprehensive approach to the project, enshrined the card in legislation and became the first EU Member State to implement the project. The card enables persons with disabilities in EU Member States to enjoy various benefits and discounts in EU countries, which allows greater freedom and accessibility for persons with disabilities. It is therefore crucial that the project is extended to all EU countries.
The new EU Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 was also presented, which provides a framework for further progress in ensuring that persons with disabilities have equal access and opportunities to participate in all areas of social life and are not denied their human rights. The areas of deinstitutionalisation, binding legislation and funding were highlighted.
At the conference, State Secretary Cveto Uršič presented the inclusion of the Slovenian sign language and the language of the deafblind in the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia as an example of good practice and called on other Member States to follow our example. This has made Slovenia the fifth country to recognise sign language as a constitutional category and the first country with the right to use the language of the deafblind enshrined in its Constitution.
The conference was organised by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities in cooperation with the European Disability Forum and the National Council of Disabled Persons' Organisations of Slovenia. We are united in the belief that when implementing areas relating to the rights of persons with disabilities we need to work together with persons with disabilities and disability protection organisations, while observing the basic principle of "nothing about persons with disabilities without persons with disabilities". This is the only way for Member States and the EU itself to successfully implement disability legislation.