a) The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
Article 21 of the Charter prohibits any discrimination inter alia on the ground of disability. Article 26 of the Charter recognises the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community. Article 34 of the Charter recognises the entitlement to social security benefits and services in cases such as dependency or loss of employment.
b) The legislative powers and their limits
According to Article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Union is empowered to take appropriate action to combat discrimination based inter alia on disability.
According to Article 153 TFEU, the Union is empowered to adopt measures, including directives setting minimum requirements, to support and complement the activities of the Member States in the fields of - inter alia - the improvement of the working environment to protect workers' health and safety; working conditions; social security and social protection of workers; and the integration of persons excluded from the labour market. Based on Article 153 TFEU, the Union is also empowered to support and complement the activities of the Member States in the field of combating social exclusion.
c) Existing measures
The Union is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD),(123) an international legally binding instrument setting minimum standards for the rights of people with disabilities. 27 Union Member States(124) are also parties to the Convention. The UNCRPD requires its parties to adopt all appropriate measures for the implementation of the rights recognised therein, including persons with disabilities' right to work on an equal basis with others, to an adequate standard of living, to live independently and to be included in the community.
Council Directive 2000/78/EC(125) (the Employment Equality Directive) prohibits discrimination on the ground of inter alia disability as regards access to employment, self-employment, occupation and vocational training. It requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation, which means to take appropriate measures, where needed in a particular case, to enable a person with a disability to have access to, participate in, or advance in employment, or to undergo training, unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer.
The core elements of the UNCRPD are reflected in the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020,(126) through which the Commission promotes participation of people with disabilities in society and in the labour market, decent living conditions and social inclusion. Moreover, provisions related to people with disabilities are included in Union sectoral legislation such as on transport, telecommunication, consumer protection, state aid, public procurement or health and safety.
Moreover, the Commission encourages Member States to ensure that people with special needs receive support within the general education system. It does so mostly through the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, established in 1996. The Agency supports reforms at national level through long-term cooperation, expertise and knowledge exchange, working directly with ministries of education on a voluntary basis. The Agency's reviews help Member States meting the international standards set in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, notably article 24. Through Erasmus+ funding, the Commission also supports concrete projects promoting inclusive education.
(123) Council Decision of 26 November 2009 concerning the conclusion, by the European Community, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, OJ L 23, 27.1.2010, p. 35.
(124) Except Ireland which is finalising the ratification process.
(125) Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, OJ L 303, 2.12.2000, p. 16.
(126) Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe, COM/2010/0636 final.