Hundreds of human rights activists and delegates from organisations representing persons with disabilities from across Europe gathered in Brussels for the 4th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities in the plenary chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels on December 6.

The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, delivered the opening speech. He said: “Our commitment to improve the lives of persons with disabilities is founded in our values as Europeans, including our attachment to freedom, equality and inclusion of all individuals in society. These values have to be translated into concrete actions, to enable every person to live an independent life, and to make sure that our society empowers everyone.”

According to Tajani, it is unacceptable that there are still Europeans restricted from their right to vote due to a disability.

“The situation is not reassuring in all Member States, for this reason I wrote to all heads of State to see to the guarantees of democratic participation in the upcoming European elections,” he said.

“Everyone has to have the possibility to give his own contribution to this debate. This is why I endorse the motto of the European disability forum: ‘Nothing about us without us’ by adding also that no decision on Europe should be made without your participation.”

Nearly one in six people in Europe (over the age of 15) lives with some kind of disability and this is expected to increase due to Europe’s ageing population.

Also, the poverty rate for people with a disability is 70% higher than the average as they face additional expenses, lower incomes and a reduced chance of finding a job.