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Document 51994AC1306

OPINION OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE on the Proposal for a Council Decision concerning the continued development of the HANDYNET system within the framework of Decision 93/136/EEC establishing a third Community action programme to assist disabled people (HELIOS II 1993-1996)

OL C 397, 1994 12 31, p. 31–32 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT)

51994AC1306

OPINION OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE on the Proposal for a Council Decision concerning the continued development of the HANDYNET system within the framework of Decision 93/136/EEC establishing a third Community action programme to assist disabled people (HELIOS II 1993-1996)

Official Journal C 397 , 31/12/1994 P. 0031


Opinion on the proposal for a Council Decision concerning the continued development of the Handynet system within the framework of Decision 93/136/EEC establishing a third Community action programme to assist disabled people (Helios II 1993-1996) (94/C 397/13)

On 4 August 1994 the Council decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee, under the second paragraph of the Article 235 of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, on the abovementioned proposal.

The Economic and Social Committee decided to appoint Dame Jocelyn Barrow as Rapporteur-General for the Opinion.

At its 320th Plenary Session (meeting of 23 November 1994), the Economic and Social Committee adopted the following Opinion unanimously.

1. General comments on Helios II

1.1. The Helios II programme (scheduled to run from 1 January 1993 to 31 December 1996) is now entering its active phase. Based on three binding fundamental principles: equal opportunities, integration into society and the right to live independently, the programme covers five priority areas: functional rehabilitation, integration in the education system, integration in training, economic integration and social integration. Helios is the only Community programme devoted exclusively to the disabled but it interlocks with other Community schemes such as Horizon and TIDE. While advocating sustained synergy between the various programmes, the Committee points out that the grave situation of disabled people must be addressed at the political level by a declaration by the Heads of State or of Government, or, better still, by the incorporation of the rights of the disabled in a Charter of Citizens' Rights both at national and European level.

1.2. The Handynet system, which is an essential part of Helios II, is designed to assist disabled people. It has more than 50 000 entries on technical aids, the addresses of specialist bodies and firms and details of legislation covering the handicapped in the Member States. This information dissemination facility has been upgraded and made available on CD-ROM No 6 (technical aids module). The system can now be consulted in around 363 information and advice centres, 47 Data Collection Centres and 12 National Coordination Centres, spread across the Union. As the previous Committee Opinion stressed () it is very important to have 'reliable up-to-date statistics' in order to assess frequency of utilization.

2. General comments on Handynet

2.1. The Committee once again () welcomes the proposal for the continued development of the Handynet computerized information and documentation system under Helios II. Nevertheless it suggests the rewording of the proposal to include development as well as continuation.

2.2. The Committee would point out that there are more than 30 million people in the EU with a physical, mental or psychological handicap; account must be taken of this figure in framing future social policies.

2.3. The Committee advocates the establishment of legal safeguards for the rights of disabled people. All possible measures must be taken to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to legalize rights to equal opportunities in respect of employment and social life. There is a long way to go in guaranteeing the basic rights of the disabled and the adoption of a more coherent policy in this specific area. Pressure must be brought to bear on the Member States to amplify, where necessary, their domestic legislation in this area. Concrete action must be taken in the fields of employment, culture and education.

2.4. Public awareness is a key component in establishing political will, without which there will be no progress.

3. Specific comments

Sole Article

3.1. This Article should be strengthened as follows: Handynet shall be continued and developed, particularly in the light of the new modules on training and accessibility which are now to be included.

3.2. The Committee questions the rationale for extending Handynet by one year only, when Helios II, of which it is part, continues for two years.

3.3. It also recommends the need for ensuring certainty in the future for both programmes, with a longterm commitment. It also suggests the need for a separate consideration of Handynet apart from Helios II.

4. Commission's report

4.1. This is an honest and responsible appraisal of the most recent results, evaluating shortcomings as well as successes (e.g. pages 36-37). But it is poorly presented in small print, with much of its vitally interesting information relegated to footnotes in even smaller italic print. The Committee wishes a much better presentation and wider distribution. Wider dissemination of this report could lead to greater public awareness of the social, economic and financial needs of disabled people as they grasp the opportunities of wider integration and acceptance into society.

4.2. The Committee urges the Member States to encourage the maximum dissemination of the CD-ROM at national level and to step up cooperation and the exchange of information with third countries in respect of manufactured technical aids. In additional, the Memorandum states that Handynet is fully in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. In this context, the Committee stresses the need for dissemination 'right down to local level', in the light of the report's findings (page 47) that an 'information system is only of any real value if it is widely disseminated'.

4.3. The Committee recalls that the Handynet system should be cost effective in that economies of scale will be generated by the development of existing networks and by the cut in communications costs stemming from the widespread use of disks, print-outs and networking. The Committee stresses the need to expand cross-border exchanges, to step up cooperation and to mobilize the various sectors concerned ().

4.4. The Committee welcomes the Commission's decision to study two new modules (employment-training and accessibility) taking account of the needs expressed by the disabled themselves and to consider information on job placement.

4.4.1. In this context the Committee requests the Member States to step up their commitment and to support various measures such as encouraging employers to recruit disabled people.

4.5. The Committee recommends greater collaboration with manufacturers and distributors. The report refers to the fact (page 36) that more effort should be made.

4.6. The Committee draws attention to the fact that safety in design and construction are of particular importance to disabled people, and sometimes to the people who care for them. This aspect is not at present adequately covered.

4.7. Second-hand products are to be deleted from the database but kept in an archive file. The Committee points out that such products can and do remain in use for a long time and information must be readily available, especially on maintenance and spare parts. The introduction of liability of second-hand goods in the Product Safety Directive 1994 should be noted.

4.8. Once again the Committee stresses the need for an urgent reappraisal of VAT and zero-rating on aids for disabled people.

Done at Brussels, 23 November 1994.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Carlos FERRER

() OJ No C 79, 30. 3. 1992 - paragraph 3.7.

() OJ No C 56, 7. 3.1990.

() Op. cit. p. 31, No 1.

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