[WATCH] Consultation for EU disability card launched in Malta

Parliamentary secretary Justyne Caruana hails potential for 'disability tourism' as KNPD launches consultation process for EU-wide disability card

KNPD CEO Rhoda Garland, Chairman Oliver Scicluna and Parliamentary Secretary Justyne Caruana discuss the EU disability card pilot project
KNPD CEO Rhoda Garland, Chairman Oliver Scicluna and Parliamentary Secretary Justyne Caruana discuss the EU disability card pilot project

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A consultation process for the establishment of an EU disability card was launched in Malta, one of eight countries in the pilot project.

The card aims to ensure the mutual recognition of the rights and benefits of people with disability across the European Union. Malta is one of eight recipients of a grant to launch the card as a pilot project - along with Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Romania and Slovenia.

National Disability Commission (KNPD) chairperson Oliver Scicluna told the consultation process that the card would allow disabled people to live more independently and autonomously, and that it could be used to obtain disability benefits in Malta instead of the local special ID card or yellow card.

“There are around 80 million people with a disability in Europe, but every member state has its own criteria to establish what constitutes a disability,” Scicluna said. “There is currently no mutual recognition of disability within EU member states, meaning that disabled people aren’t recognized as such when they travel across Europe.”

He ensured that eligibility for disability status would not be impacted by the new card and that individual member states would still be in charge of determining such criteria.

Parliamentary secretary for the rights of people with a disability Justyne Caruana said that the pilot project would ensure that Malta is on the forefront of development in the disability sector.

“When other countries see the positive effects of these initiatives, they will want to follow suit,” she said, adding that the pilot project is costing the eight pioneering countries a “substantial amount of money”.

She added that the card has the potential of creating new investment and economic opportunities.

“If the country becomes more friendly to people with a disability, then it will unlock potential for a new kind of tourism in the country and therefore strengthen our economy,” Caruana said.

She also said that the government plans to regulate the blue badge system for disabled people to clamp down on abuse, which she warned is “frequent”.

Caruana said that the government is working on a policy document for the regulation of personal assistants to people with disability, as well as on a budget proposal to have personal assistants in the public sector. 

KNPD CEO Rhoda Garland explained that the card would be usable in the eight participating member states and that an information campaign would soon be launched to inform potential applicants on social media platforms, TV appearances and interviews, billboards and Radio interviews among others.

Scicluna said that eligibility for the card would nbe dicatated by individual member states, and that they would still be in charge of determining such criteria.

“In Malta the criteria for the card will be the same as the special ID card or the so called yellow card,” he said.

Scicluna added that KNPD would now embark on discussions with entities in various sectors including tourism, culture, entertainment and transport among others.

Those at the debate suggested a number of initiatives including having an optional indication of the disability in question on the card. Others suggested that travel agencies and airlines had to be included in the discussion.

Other members of the audience also pointed out the need to ensure that if a person with a disability would be allowed to skip a queue for instance, they could be able to do so with other individuals, like both parents for instance.