“People with disabilities must have a choice and must decide on their lives.” Europe in Action 2022 session on employment

Several speeches about the accessibility in the workspace and the importance of being able to work for people with disabilities.

``People with disabilities must have a choice and must decide on their lives.`` Europe in Action 2022 session on employment

Several speakers talked about how to create an accessible space in the labour market for people with disabilities. They also discussed the importance of people with disabilities being able to work so as to become independent and included in society. The event is organised in collaboration with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Soufiane El Amrani, Inclusion Europe’s easy-to-read officer and self-advocacy expert, hosted a conversation on the importance of having a job for people with intellectual disabilities.

Improving the rights of people with disabilities

By Pietro Vittorio Barbieri, EESC Member, President of the Thematic study group on disability rights

In this first part, M. Barbieri talked about his involvement in the field of disability. He compares the difficulties of people with intellectual disabilities to enter the labour market to the difficulties in accessing education.

Also, he mentions the importance of convincing other actors of the importance of inclusion, the fact that it is a fundamental right and its discrimination if not achieved.

On the recent work of the committee, it gave its opinion on the adoption of directives, for example:

  • On the work with technological platforms.
  • On the exploitation of workers outside the European Union.

Full speech: Pietro Vittorio Barbieri – Jobs for people with intellectual disabilities

Employment of people with disabilities in the European Union

By Katrin Langensiepen, Member of the European Parliament

Katrin Langensiepen is a Member of the European Parliament from Germany since 2019 and is a woman with a physical disability. She is an expert in social policy and poverty.

She talked about the work she has been doing in Germany and also her personal story.

When she first started as an MEP, she was the only representative with a disability. Now, there are 705 MEPs and 6 of them are people with a disability.

She emphasized the fact that there are still people with disabilities who cannot vote in their member states. A few months ago, the European Parliament voted that everyone in the EU must have the right to vote and participate in EU elections.

She mentioned that persons with disabilities are mostly unemployed and the situation for women is even worse – they receive double discrimination. And one of the key issues is the lack of statistics.

She urged that people with disabilities must have a choice and must decide on their lives. 

Finally, she talked about wanting laws and a system of personal assistance because of the issue of mothers not being able to have another job while taking care of their disabled children.

More info about her report on employment in collaboration with Inclusion Europe is at REPORT on the implementation of Council Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation in light of the UNCRPD | A9-0014/2021 | European Parliament (europa.eu)

Employment in public administration

By Ana Martinez from Plena Inclusion

Ana Martinez, a self-advocate from Plena Inclusion in Spain, spoke about the work of Plena Inclusion and her own experience.

Plena inclusion is a Spanish organisation representing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since 1963, they are present in all provinces and it is the reference NGO for people with intellectual disabilities in Spain.

The mission of plena inclusion is to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, support and opportunities to develop a quality of life project, to promote access to employment in a fair and inclusive society.

In order to continue advancing the rights and to promote the right to employment, 2% of the position in public administration should be for people with intellectual disabilities.

Plena inclusion created a project of public employment with the administration to make job calls accessible for the positions reserved for people with intellectual disabilities.

This project was developed through the following phases:

  1. Supporting the public administration in the preparation of the call for proposals
  2. Job analysis carried out by job coaches
  3. Elaboration, adaptation and validation of the syllabus in easy to read by Plena Inclusion.
  4. Validation of the syllabus by the public administration
  5. Agreement on the type of test, examination and modality
  6. Adoption and validation of the materials and support necessary for the support with easy to read.

Microsoft’s Supported Employment Program

By Gillian Maguire and Brian Collins, Microsoft – Supported Employment

Gillian Maguire and Brian Collins from Microsoft spoke about Microsoft’s “Supported Employment Program”. They partner with vendors and employment agencies.

Gillian Maguire is the senior program manager for Microsoft’s supported employment program and she has a background working with people with disabilities in an NGO. Brian Collins is in charge of the supported employment program of Microsoft.

At Microsoft, they believe people with disabilities are a strength for the company to add diversity and knowledge. To create programs for people with disabilities and have accessible spaces all over the world, accessibility has to be thought of from the start with the experience of people with disabilities.

The program helps to address the unemployment rate one job at a time. The idea was to develop a program that would partner with job coaches and the vendors at Microsoft to develop job opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

Also, it is important to provide training for managers and for employers. They developed a “Knowledge centre” to engage the corporate level and managers leaders to create a safe space to ask questions and speak to experts. The training involves people with disabilities, and job coaches.

Finally, they made their physical environment accessible. For example, our stairs have continuous handrails, there is a lot of signage with brain and high colour contrast, and there are quiet rooms and places for relaxation.

Learn more at aka.ms/supportedemployment

It is important to have a job

Closing remarks about the importance of employment, and how to create more jobs for people with intellectual disabilities by Soufiane El Amrani.

Soufiane El Amrani concluded the session by saying that companies and administrations should not be afraid to hire people with intellectual disabilities, because they will learn new things from them as well.

In order to do that, the work environment needs to be made accessible for people with intellectual disabilities.

Finally, all people with intellectual disabilities must have the possibility to earn their own money like everyone else. It is a way to gain independence and be included in the community.


Our work brings the voice of people with intellectual disabilities and their families where decisions about their future are made.

This has always been incredibly important. It is even more so with the Covid pandemic drastic impact on their rights and lives.

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