Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen
Improving the life of people with disabilities and creating an accessible and barrier free environment for them is an important issue and one the European Commission and the Danish EU Presidency are placing focus on by holding this conference. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers for hosting this valuable event and inviting me to participate in the opening.
I believe that all of us here today share a common vision of creating a society, where people with disabilities – depending on their personal aspirations and individual needs – are able to contribute to and fully benefit from society.
Through my involvement and interest in the work of a number of Danish organisations representing people with disabilities, I have gained some insight into the common issues. Common issues that matter for people living with, for example; brain injuries, psychosocial disabilities or rare diseases. And one issue is removing the barriers in society that prevent people with disabilities from fulfilling their ambitions and being in control of their own lives.
Through my close relationship with these organisations, I have been able to witness the commitment from various parts of society to break down barriers. Much has been done. Barriers have been broken down. But many remain.
When addressing this conference, where the focus is on accessibility and participation and full inclusion of persons with disabilities, I’d like to take a moment to tell you about a campaign which is about inclusion and each of us taking small steps – or more correctly ‘giving time’. An initiative run by a Danish organisation supporting people living with brain damage. It is aimed at making everyday situations (for example; shopping or use of public transport) more manageable for people with a communication disability. Often because of their disability they are ignored, or thought to be under the influence – simply put their situation is misunderstood. And that is hard to accept when you want to be active part of society.
Often all that is required in their situation is a little: a little extra time to listen, to speak a little slower and more clearly, and give a little extra help.
Every small step counts – and we all have a responsibility to make it happen.
There are still many challenges ahead of us. Today the world moves at a pace that was not even imaginable twenty years ago and we have more possibilities than ever. As soon as we get used to a new way of communicating, a new one is created.
Technological development offers great opportunities for people with disabilities but, also potential new barriers. So when planning the development of our common society it is important to consider carefully how we maximise the benefit of new technologies and at the same time prevent the creation of unnecessary social barriers that can exclude people with disabilities from being an active part of our society.
It is essential that the views and needs of people with disabilities are an integral part of that planning process. With greater understanding of an individual’s situation we are better equipped to find the most effective solutions for everyone.
We are all responsible for looking out for each other and helping each other. We all profit from diversity and greater understanding and tolerance in society. This is what the basic acknowledgement, recognition and respect for another individual is about.
I hope that your discussions today and tomorrow will bring us one step further towards ensuring that people with disabilities have access to society and are able to participate in society in line with their ambitions and needs.