open access

Abstract

For Europe’s nearly 40 million disabled persons, restricted access to the labour market continues to prevent this group from achieving full inclusion in society. Given Europe’s aging society and its emphasis on social welfare protections, excluding disabled persons from entry to the workforce is at first glance an economic problem. This population alone accounts for one of Europe’s greatest untapped resources. More important, however, especially for the disabled, the problem is as much an economic one as it is a violation of human rights. This article begins with an examination of the social and medical models of disability, arguing in favour of the former, and provides a brief historical overview of the disability movement. Much of the focus is on the Treaty of Amsterdam, which provided the necessary basis for the Framework Employment Directive, to date the only directive that deals with the prohibition of discrimination of disabled persons in the workforce. This article will then examine the key deficiencies of the Framework Employment Directive regarding disability, notably its failure to provide a definition of disability, and the lack of sanctions and direct effect. This article will then provide some possible solutions to make disability level with other types of discrimination by means of introducing positive duties, mainstreaming, and converging Member States policies.