International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Inclusive development through education


On the 3rd of December 2022, ETUCE celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by renewing its commitment to working towards the inclusion of students and education personnel with disabilities and special needs into the education system and the labour market. Education trade unions play a key role in supporting the construction of inclusive learning and working environments in education.

In line with the 2022 UN mandated theme on "Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world," ETUCE emphasises the importance of fostering innovative inclusive workplaces and learning environments. However, ETUCE also recognises that there are several challenges that might hinder the realisation of this goal. These challenges include the fact that people with disabilities are under-represented in the teaching profession in Europe, that there is an absence of appropriate accommodations and psychological support in the workplace, and that there is a shortage of teachers and supporting educational personnel. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the cost-of-living crisis have only served to exacerbate these preexisting challenges for people with disabilities in the education sector. This is because they are more exposed to major health risks and more precarious working conditions and have access to fewer career opportunities.

European Director Susan Flocken, has highlighted the importance of education trade unions working collectively to lobby governments to have the resources necessary to overcome this confluence of challenges, stating that "adequate public investments and training paths are needed to promote a new positive approach regarding the concept of disability and special needs. These novel approaches should have clear aims and strategies to remove legal, physical, and organisational barriers for people with disabilities, including the ones that are specific to the education sector. It is of paramount importance that these changes be agreed through dialogue with social partners in education."

ETUCE member organisations have also planned various activities to promote understanding of disability related issues and stimulate support for the rights, dignity, and wellbeing of individuals with disabilities. The National Education Union (NEU) in the UK will be promoting its disability toolkit, that looks to help representatives support disabled members on the day. The Eastern Mediterranean University Union of Academic Staff (DAÜ-SEN) in Cyprus will spotlight a special event held at their community centre, also known as their local, on the 1st of December on individuals with special needs and education to mark the occasion.

To create inclusive education systems and labour markets for students, teachers, academics, and other education personnel with disabilities and special needs, ETUCE and its member organisations, in the ETUCE Action Plan on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion have, amongst other things, further committed to: 

  • Training officers to mainstream disability and special needs issues in negotiations with education employers in education, education authorities and governments;
  • Gathering evidence on the impact that budget cuts have had on inclusive education for people with special needs and disabilities and using it to campaign for increased funding;
  • Advocating to include this topic in social dialogue in education.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has also outlined the need to promote equality, recognising that disabled individuals of working age still face large amounts of discrimination in the workplace.

At European level, during the traditional two-day conference entitled “European Day of Persons with Disabilities 2022” organized by the European Commission in partnership with the European Disability Forum, more than 400 policymakers, high-level experts and disability advocates discussed the experiences and visions for the future of young people with disabilities. The event further highlighted violence and the impact of the Russian war against Ukraine on persons with disabilities.