Prima Pagina
Reg. Tribunale Lecce n. 662 del 01.07.1997
Direttore responsabile: Dario Cillo





Athens, 17 May 2003


Towards a barrier free Europe for young people with disabilities

 We, over 200 young disabled and non-disabled participants in the European Youth Conference “Towards a barrier free Europe for young people with disabilities”, gathered in Athens from 16 to 17 May 2003, hereby affirm our commitment to the European Year of People with Disabilities 2003 and recognize the necessity to ensure full participation and equal opportunities for all young people taking into consideration their abilities and potential.  We promote the change of perspective on people with disabilities from the medical and charity model to a social model.

Noting that young people, particularly the most vulnerable such as people with disabilities are particularly susceptible to social, economical, political and cultural exclusion, we fully endorse the Madrid Declaration (, proclaimed by more than 600 participants to the European Congress of People with Disabilities in March 2002 in Madrid, providing a conceptual framework for action for the European Year of People with Disabilities at all levels, and more particularly to its general concept of  “NON DISCRIMINATION + POSITIVE ACTION = SOCIAL INCLUSION”.  We call for awareness raising actions in order to change attitudes in the whole society.

We agreed during the conference workshops to propose the following actions :

Participation and Information for All

To achieve full participation of young people with disabilities in society, and in order to promote change of attitude, we call for:  

Ř      The representation of young people with disabilities in all youth networks/NGYOs as well as their active participation and self-representation in their networks/NGYOs at the local, regional, national, European and International level

Ř      The elimination of barriers for their participation as active citizens, such as accessibility to the built and public environment, transportation systems, information and telecommunication systems.

Ř      Participation of young people with disabilities through their involvement in decision-making bodies at all levels. Young people with disabilities should be consulted and involved in the decision-taking processes concerning youth affairs.

Ř      A transformation into a universal accessible society, for all.

To promote full participation through supporting actions on employment :

Ř      Full accessibility to employment,

Ř      Dignity, equality of opportunities in employment, promoting vocational training and life long learning

Ř      To consider people with disabilities as contributors to society as an important part of the workforce and not recipients of social benefits

Agreeing that information is a prerequisite to full participation, we call for :

Ř      Information provided should take into account the needs of young people with disabilities providing free and accessible information based on the principle of equal opportunities and equal rights.  Access to information is a human right, for the youth it is fundamental to work, study, social integration and everyday life.  It makes young people self-conscious, citizens in their full rights of a  Europe without barriers. Information should therefore be made available in the most suitable format for young people with specific needs, e.g. Braille, audio-tape, large print, easy-to-read format, subtitling, sign language, Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) compliant websites, etc.

Ř      Coherent strategies for the presentation and dissemination of information to ALL young people ensuring the involvement of young people with disabilities in the design and content of communication tools.  Information needs to be of good quality in a language appealing to young people. Participation of young people with disabilities in shaping and designing the information is essential.

Ř      An targeted information strategy to young people to be informed about young people with disabilities as a way to overcome attitudinal barriers and to provide better understanding of  people with disabilities.

Ř      A representation and visualization of young people with disabilities in the general media coverage as actors, distributors, journalists, etc.

Voluntary Service

Volunteering being a core-value and one of the best expressions of active citizenship, we call for :

Ř      Young people with disabilities to be considered as active volunteers and not as passive recipients

Ř      The elimination of barriers and social exclusion of young people with disabilities by their participation to voluntary service activities, encouraging  their integration and active participation, promoting their personal and professional development

Ř      Accessible voluntary service activities for the full participation of young people with disabilities, such as accessible environment, transportation and information

Ř      The establishment of communication networks between the relevant actors, e.g. umbrella voluntary work organisations and disability NGYOs, governments,etc.

Ř      The improvement of knowledge about volunteering options for people with disabilities, e.g. the publication of examples of good practice

Ř      An European Voluntary Service programme which provides funding for the extra costs connected to the full participation for persons with disabilities in the programme.

Education for All

Education for all is a first step towards an inclusive society.  Inclusive education systems whether academic or not, does not only benefit to young people with disabilities but benefit to ALL young people learning from each others’ differences and abilities. Therefore we endorse the Salamanca statement of 1995 and we call for:

Ř      considering inclusive education systems at all levels as the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all

Ř      fully accessible education systems not only in terms of built environment but also in terms of information, pedagogical material, teaching and learning methods and means of communication  in appropriate formats (augmentative and oral communication support systems and alternative communication systems, braille, audio-tape, large print, easy-to-read, subtitling, sign language, hearing devices,etc.)

Ř      disability to be included in the basic formal educational programmes and courses to ensure disability awareness by all young people

Ř      participation of young people with disabilities and parents or tutors and organizations of young people with disabilities in the planning and decision-making process concerning the provision for those young people with various educational needs, including the right to decide on what kind of education

Ř      to improve assistance to achieve inclusive education

Ř      the use of people with disabilities as resources both in governmental and non-governmental sector, e.g. trainers, educators, …

Ř      to work towards the elimination of segregated education and special schools, and to support the mainstreaming of special education in general education systems while recognizing the right of deaf people to choose special or mainstream schools with teaching method in sign language.

Mobility and Independent Living

Mobility and free movement is a basic human right for ALL citizens. For young people it is even more important for the development of their personal skills and the strengthening of their personalities as a first step towards an independent life.  Young people with disabilities have to face many barriers to achieve independent living, full mobility and full integration in society. Therefore we call for :

Ř      Mobility to be considered as a right to which everyone should be entitled. This should  be ensured by providing accessible transport systems, buildings, housing and support for young people with special needs

Ř      Independent living and autonomy for young people with disabilities as the right to be in charge of their lives, think and speak for themselves

Ř      A political and financial framework to ensure people with disabilities the right to personal assistance to attain full mobility and independent living

Ř      More specific legislations and financial structures to enhance the improvement an accessible society (physical, informative, communicative and psycho-social accessibility)

Ř      The improvement of youth programmes structures to allow full participation of all young people with disabilities

We call the Member States, EEA countries, accession countries, youth programme countries and Community Institutions,

Ř      To take into account the above elements in the shaping of the future policies,

Ř      To ensure that EU and national projects take into account non-discrimination towards people with disabilities (e.g. accessible venues, websites, information, sign language interpretation, palantyping service, easy-to-read, listening system devices like loop systems or FM systems, etc.)

Ř      To support the right to inclusive education of those with special educational needs encouraging social inclusion in educational policies, vocational training and permanent training

Ř      To take into account the specific needs of young people with disabilities in all disability policies

Ř      To consider the rights and needs of young people with disabilities when including the youth dimension in other policies.

Ř      To involve young people with disabilities in the political decision-making process at national and European level

 And finally, we

Ř      Call for the adoption of a Council Resolution on young people with disabilities taking into consideration the above elements

Ř      Call for the adoption of European Commission Communication on this issue

Ř      Call to support the adoption of a Disability Specific Non Discrimination Directive, a new EU legislation promoting positive discrimination based on article 13 of the European Treaty, abolishing all forms of discrimination in the European Union, covering all fields of EU competence that affect people with disabilities, specifically policy areas such as education for the deaf, transport, education, access to information, social protection, public health, consumer affairs, housing, telecommunications.

The European Disability Forum and the European Youth Forum commit themselves to continue to work together in the future and to undertake some joint actions, to cooperate actively on the topics highlighted and to widely disseminate widely this Declaration. We also recognize the need for further discussion on issues not raised in this conference, for example employment and other issues which impact on young people’s lives, and work towards equal opportunities of young people with disabilities


We are, first of all, young people, then young people with disabilities




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