EASPD answers the Accessibility Act consultation

In previous posts, answers to the European Accessibility Act Consultation were presented from two Disabled Persons Organizations, the RNIB and EDF.

""This post shares the answer to the consultation by the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) in order to provide another perspective on the issue of European accessibility policy.

EASPD, represents 10,000 service providers in Europe. Their contribution to the European Accessibility Act consultation consisted of four key messages reprinted here:

  • To be effective the European Accessibility Act should be legally binding, with real force and sanctions
  • The Act should take a holistic approach covering all aspects of life, and not only access to goods and services
  • The Act must apply to all people with disabilities, including people with intellectual disabilities and people with high support needs.
  • The Act should build in mechanisms for monitoring and specialist support and involvement by all stakeholders, including social service providers. A legal framework is not sufficient by itself.

Please read the press release for more information on EASPD’s answer to the EAA consultation.


“Finding our way”! The 23rd International Conference for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus is taking place June 15–16, 2012, in Stockholm.

""The International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) (www.ifglobal.org) and the National Association for Disabled Children and Youths in Sweden (RBU) (www.rbu.se) are organising IF’s 23rd International Conference taking place in Stockholm on June 15–16, 2012. Registration for this event is now open.

Since 1979, IF, in collaboration with its members, had the tradition to bring together stakeholders from different disciplines, backgrounds and countries to make the point on the advancements related to research, studies and care regarding Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. The theme of this year’s conference is “Finding Our Way” indicating that not everybody fits in with mainstream solutions. Many of us have to find our personal roads in life. There will be medical sessions of importance, practical workshops and cultural activities as well as social meeting points.

It’s the first gathering of its kind in Sweden for decades, there will be ample opportunities to learn more about Spina Bifida, connect to new people and have fun. More information about the program of the conference can be found in this page (http://www.rbu.se/higlights-program). Information about the registration can be found in this page (http://www.rbu.se/form/sign-form-conference-anmalan-till-konferensen).

Participants who register no later than 12 April will profit from the early bird fee.

Who is it for?

·      Adults with Spina Bifida
·      Young people with Spina Bifida
·      Parents of children with Spina Bifida
·      Personal assistants
·      Medical doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists and everybody who works or lives with people who have Spina Bifida

What will I gain?

·     New knowledge about Spina Bifida
·     Your own personal pathway for a good life with Spina Bifida will be strengthened
·     You will sharpen your awareness of the complexity in Spina Bifida
·     Better knowledge is the key to a better life

Stefania Pirani: Stefania.pirani@ifglobal.org
Badr Mouhcine: badr.mouhcine@ifglobal.org
Ammi Sundqvist: ammi.sundqvist@rbu.se

European Parliament hosts International Seminar on Genetic Discrimination

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Aisling de Paor, a Ph.D candidate in the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway, and Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) scholar. Aisling is a graduate of NUI Galway (BCL) and University College Cork (LL.M).  Aisling is qualified as a solicitor and specialized primarily in employment law.

""On 6th March 2012, Marian Harkin MEP and Phil Prendergast MEP hosted a seminar on the topic of Genetic Discrimination. The event was organised by the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway, in conjunction with the European Disability Forum, and took place in the European Parliament, Brussels.

This international seminar, which was chaired by Andre Gubbels (Belgian Ministry), was the first of its kind in the European Parliament and brought together a diverse range of leading experts in the area, with the objective of exploring the case for a European level response to protect the privacy of genetic information and to prevent genetic discrimination. The seminar highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of this area and focused on the interaction between genetic science, technology, ethics and the law, and in particular, how best to address this complex area. The event also looked at the challenges and practical problems that arise when attempting to regulate this area, as well as the transatlantic perspectives on the matter.

Speakers included Professor Ciaran Morrison (Centre for Chromosome Biology, School of Natural Sciences, NUI Galway), who illustrated the reality of rapidly advancing genetic science, and the potential of new genetic testing technology.  Professor Yann Joly (Centre of Genomics and Policy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada) outlined the ethical and legal implications arising from the use of genetic information by third parties, exploring the potential for genetic discrimination.

Professor Peter Blanck (Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University) examined the position in the United States and the Genetic Information Non Discrimination Act 2008, while setting the scene in a historical, sociological and political context. Dr Delia Ferri (Faculty of Law, University of Verona) presented the challenges and possibilities of legislating at European Union level, looking particularly at the privacy and non- discrimination approaches.

A roundtable panel composed of Pat Clarke (member of European Disability Forum Executive Committee/ President, Down Syndrome Ireland), Marian Harkin, MEP, Peter Hustinx (European Data Protection Supervisor) and Dima Yared (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) discussed the different perspectives for the way forward.

The Rapporteur’s Report was delivered by Dr Elise Muir (Maastricht University), who reflected upon the emerging consensus that genetic science is advancing at a rapid pace, and is becoming more accessible and more readily available to individuals and third parties. Dr Muir acknowledged that although advancing genetic research offers the potential to revolutionise health care and medical treatment, it could also result in problems and pitfalls with the misuse of sensitive genetic information.  Although a comprehensive European level response is needed in this area, to adequately protect genetic privacy and prevent the discriminatory use of genetic information (and also to avoid a parsimonious approach to the issue), care needs to be taken when considering the nature of the problem and the appropriate way forward.

Professor Gerard Quinn, Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway, stated: “This is the Centre at its best. We exist to inform debate and have impact. Scientific advances are for the benefit of all and we must maintain public confidence.  The best way to do this is to have a European level debate about how to protect people against the abuse of genetic information. Because of this event, a unique partnership between the Centre for Disability Law and Policy and the European Parliament, there is now a genuine European-level debate that should hopefully generate a European-level response in time.”

Sociology in an Age of Austerity

Annual Conference 2012 Sociology in an Age of Austerity http://www.britsoc.co.uk/events/conference/


The theme for the 2012 Annual Conference is: Sociology in an Age of Austerity.  The conference will take place at the University of Leeds, from 11-13 April 2012.

The 2012 annual conference promises to be dynamic, informative, inspiring and is definitely not to be missed.  Bettering our 60th anniversary conference this year will be a challenge, but we’re determined we can make it happen – starting with our world-renowned keynote speakers.

Stephen Ackroyd – Esteemed UK sociologist renowned for his work on organisational analysis

  • Zygmunt Bauman – World-famous Polish sociologist and author of over 50 books including Liquid Modernity
  • Rosemary Batt – Acclaimed US Professor of Women and Work and international specialist on call centres
  • Michael Buroway – Highly respected Berkley-based British sociologist best known in the UK as the leading proponent of public sociology
  • John Brewer – President of the British Sociological Association and renowned specialist on peace processes

Our themes are deliberately broad and all-encompassing, designed to appeal to the entire spectrum of sociologists and stimulate lively debate. We’re assessing the impact of austerity on law, families, education, healthcare, research, and much more. You are at the heart of the discipline. Your voice is important. Join the finest scholars from across the globe to lead the debate. Policy makers are coming to hear what you – the people with real experience – have to say.

Who should attend?

  • Senior academics looking to engage in a lively, stimulating debate with peers and bright new stars.
  • Researchers looking to connect with like-minded colleagues.
  • Teachers looking for new ideas and inspiration.
  • Students looking and learn from experts and Postgraduates looking to present and get ideas on their research.
  • Policy-makers looking for scientific facts to back or steer their ideas or to develop new directions in policy.
  • Anyone looking to engage with the wider sociological community.

The aims of this conference are: to showcase the latest sociological research; to attract a concentration of international specialists in our major research fields; to provide a forum in which to discuss the teaching of sociology and the professional practice of being a sociologist; and to facilitate debate, networking and professional development opportunities.

The BSA annual conference is the primary annual conference for sociology in the UK with opportunities for everyone connected to the discipline.

See you there in 2012 and every year!

DREAM “Leeds” the way

The week of 13 February, the DREAM ESRs were hosted by the University of Leeds for a week-long training and network event. The event was divided into four themes coinciding with the DREAM focus areas, Disability, Rights, Accessibility and Markets.


  • Colin Barnes presented a reflection on the social model of disability
  • Rannveig Traustadottir explained the Nordic understanding of disability in an international context
  • Mark Priestley demonstrated the materialist, idealist and realist approaches to disability


  • Theresia Degener described rights, non-discrimination and intersectionality
  • Lisa Waddington explained the evolution of international and European human rights instruments from a disability perspective
  • Dagmar Schiek demonstrated non-discrimination and intersectionality in Europe


  • Anna Lawson showed how to think about accessibility and reasonable accommodation
  • Roberto Torena presented European initiatives for measuring eAccessibility
  • Patricia Rubio described the economic assessment of eAccessibility


  • Mark Davis presented consumerism and markets and discussed whether the market can deliver equality and social inclusion for disabled people in Europe

Also in attendance were Rea Maglajlić from the Mental Disability Advocacy Center, Jamie Bolling from the European Network on Independent Living, and Luk Zelderloo from the DREAM Research to Practice Advisory Forum.

The week-long event, though mentally exhausting, was a resounding success. It enabled the DREAM ESRs to become familiar with new topic areas, discuss opportunities for exploring new directions in research, and rekindled enthusiasm for collaboration and partnership. Copies of the presentations may be requested by contacting the authors directly.

The next DREAM event will be in June, hosted by Technosite in Madrid. Looking forward to another amazing experience!

21st March – World Down Syndrome Day

21 March 2012 marks the 7th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day and for the first time in 2012 this day will be officially observed by the United Nations. Please find below the message of the UN Secretary-General:


MESSAGE ON World Down Syndrome Day

21 March 2012

“Today marks the first commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day.  I congratulate the global partnership of governments, activists, families, professionals and others that worked so tirelessly and passionately to bring this Day into existence.

For too long, persons with Down syndrome, including children, have been left on the margins of society. In many countries, they continue to face stigma and discrimination as well as legal, attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their participation in their communities.

Discrimination can be as invidious as forced sterilization or as subtle as segregation and isolation through both physical and social barriers.  Persons with Down syndrome are often denied the right to equal recognition before the law, as well as the right to vote or be elected. Intellectual impairments have also been seen as legitimate grounds for depriving persons with Down syndrome of their liberty, and for holding them in specialized institutions, sometimes for their entire lives.

In many countries, girls and boys with intellectual disabilities lack sufficient access to mainstream education. The prejudice that children with Down syndrome obstruct the education of others has led some parents of children with intellectual disabilities to put their children in special schools or keep them at home.  Yet research shows – and more people are coming to understand – that diversity in the classroom leads to learning and understanding that benefit all children.

The United Nations has worked for decades to ensure the well-being and human rights of all people. These efforts were strengthened by the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. The Convention embodies a paradigm shift in which persons with disabilities are no longer regarded as objects of charity and welfare, but as persons with equal rights and dignity who can make an enormous contribution to society in their own right.

On this day, let us reaffirm that persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others. Let us build an inclusive society for all.”

For more info: http://www.worlddownsyndromeday.org/

An Inquiry into the Accessibility of Emoticons

""Chances are if you’re tech savvy enough to have turned on your computer, found the web browser, and found this blog, then hopefully the term emoticon doesn’t drive you mad with confusion or phobia.

The following is an excerpt with only slight editing, from a recent conversation I had with Hugh Huddy, an avid technologist and screen reader user about the accessibility of emoticons.

“Here’s my take on Emoticons: …a screen reader will say “colon dash right bracket” for 🙂 so…the Emoticon is being verbalised…problem is…an individual is…only hearing the info spoken out and has never heard of characters being used in strings to create emoticons before or does know about them but has no knowledge of the visual design of the characters to imagine why the string is made up as it is.”

So what began this conversation was a personal realization of my own behavior, and that that many of us use emoticons unconsciously. I can easily be accused of throwing in an extra 🙂 a 😉 or in rare instances a 😦

I won’t get into the debate around how the use of emoticons is degenerative to our most holy literary and linguistic capacities as human beings. But this unconscious assumption that what we intend to communicate is in fact being understood by the often faceless, expressionless void of the interwebs is mirrored in many areas of accessibility, from the websites we program to the products we design and the services we deliver.

Though, the really interesting part of this conversation revolves around non-digital interactions.

“However…[if emoticons] aren’t immediately obvious to someone who is seeing them, this offsets the accessibility problem…I think in this particular case “received knowledge” is important and this is…communicated between people verbally. So if…people “hear” about Emoticons verbally, then this is…accessible to blind people.

I think this provides an interesting characterization  (albeit kind of silly, I mean we’re talking about emoticons here) for exploring the interactions between our physical and digital worlds. No matter how invested we are in our online worlds, it invariably comes down to human interaction to make sense of something as simple as a smile 🙂

RNIB answers the Accessibility Act consultation

""In the EU, perhaps the most critical piece of legislation impacting the regional development of E-Accessibility, the European Accessibility Act is expected to emerge in 2012. The EAA has been working its way through the EU since 2008. The intent of the proposed act is to harmonise the European market for accessible goods and services through social regulation and the promotion of Universal Design. In the consultation document for the EAA, the EC recognized the low levels of accessibility outcomes and compliance with national policies. In February the European Commission closed the public consultation for the EAA. Disabled persons organizations, academics, persons with and without disabilities, professional organizations, and advocates throughout Europe responded. Notable among these contributions were the responses from the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the European Disability Forum .

Read more on the RNIB and EDFresponses.

EDF answers the Accessibility Act consultation

""Media release | european disability forum

CONSULTATION: 80 million Europeans with disabilities CALL for a strong European Accessibility legislation

14 March 2012 /// During the past three months, the European Commission ran a public consultation “with a view to a European Accessibility Act”. It is important for the disability movement to express the vision of all persons with disabilities on such an important legislation. A wide consultation has been set up within EDF membership and the final details of our answer have been discussed by the leaders of the disability movement during EDF board meeting earlier this month. 

1.       What is the consultation about?

2.       The good things and the bad things

3.       What scope do we want?

Read more on EDF website