Disability services are a significant part of any welfare system. A range of public social services support people with disabilities in various ways to ensure that their care and support needs are understood and addressed. ESN promotes a comprehensive approach to person-centred, community-based services that enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities.


ESN began its work in the area of disability in 1998 with the study ‘Towards a People’s Europe’, a report on direct payments for people with disabilities in 10 European countries. In 2013, we organised the seminar ‘Choice and control for service users’, which looked at how social services can support people with disabilities to have more choice and control over their daily lives. Following the seminar, ESN published its report on 'Independent Living’ presenting case studies from six countries and the challenges and opportunities for social services to promote independent living. In 2014, ESN launched a working group to further explore ways to promote independent living and active inclusion for people with disabilities.


In 2006 the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was adopted with the aim to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. Today a majority of EU Member States and the EU itself have ratified the Convention. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding in all EU Member States since 2009, also supports the integration of people with disabilities and prohibits discrimination on grounds of disability. Following the experience from the EU Disability Action Plan for 2004-2010, the EU renewed its commitment to a barrier-free Europe by adopting the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, which provides a framework for action at EU level to support the implementation of the UN Convention in Member States and within EU institutions. The European Commission has also proposed the adoption of a European Accessibility Act, which would set EU standards for accessibility of products, services, and public buildings.


Key ESN resources

External resources

For more information on our work on Disability please contact ESN Policy Office Valentina Guerra

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