Pillar I: The State Duty to Protect Human Rights
3. Regulations on European Funds [page 18]
Article 7 of Regulation No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the European Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on five EU funds obligates all Member States to take appropriate steps to prevent any form of discrimination, including based on disability. In view of the above, in 2015, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development developed the Guidelines for the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and non-discrimination, including accessibility for people with disabilities… The above-mentioned Guidelines aim to ensure the compatibility of operational programmes (OPs) with the principle of equal opportunities and non-discrimination, including accessibility, for people with disabilities… as well as to ensure a coherent approach in this respect under the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development.
…“The Member States and the Commission shall take appropriate steps to prevent any discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation during the preparation and implementation of programmes. In particular, accessibility for persons with disabilities shall be taken into account throughout the preparation and implementation of programmes.”
The Guidelines are addressed to all institutions that participate in the implementation of operational programmes cofinanced by the ESF, the ERDF and the CF, in particular managing authorities (MAs), intermediate bodies (IPs) and implementing authorities (IAs). MAs ensure that the competent decision-making body or which is a party to a project co-financing agreement under an OP will commit the beneficiary in a decision or project cofinancing agreement to apply the current Guiding Principles. The provisions adopted in these Guiding Principles are also an expression of the inclusion of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Poland in 2012, within the framework of structural funds. According to the Guiding Principles, the managing authorities of operating programmes develop criteria for the evaluation of applications for co-financing allocation in such a way that co-financing (also projects implemented by enterprises) is offered to projects that have a positive or neutral impact on the principle of equal opportunities and non-discrimination, including accessibility for people with disabilities…The creation of administrative capacity to implement equal opportunities and nondiscrimination policies, including accessibility for people with disabilities… in relation to the European Structural and Investment Funds (EFSI) was regulated in the Action Plan for Equality and Nondiscrimination 2014-2020 (22 April 2015). 8 This document is primarily an action plan for the measures that should be taken by the institutions involved in the implementation of EU funds to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities. The above-mentioned documents provide a strategic and operational framework for the disbursement of structural funds corresponding to EU policies on equal opportunity. They also represent the government’s efforts to implement and promote the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In practice, the intention is to give disabled clients of European funds an opportunity to participate in the EU budget, i.e., the opportunity to use the funds, choose a career without barriers, and thus enjoy full inclusion in society. Hence, the introduction of a number of tools intended to ensure such accessibility, e.g., universal design, rational improvements, digital accessibility, or architectural availability.
Pillar II: The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
7. Social entrepreneurship as an instrument for creating high-quality jobs for individuals at risk of poverty and social exclusion [page 33]
When considering a responsible approach to doing business and respect for human rights, also by entrepreneurs, it is impossible not to mention the specific form of economic activity known as social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship plays a very important role in the process of social and occupational reintegration of people from different groups who, for various reasons, find themselves in particularly difficult living and working conditions, e.g.,… people with disabilities. These people can return to professional life and full participation in the life of their local community in particular through work and the ability to co-decide about the future of the enterprise they are involved with, but also through other types of activities that are firmly rooted in the local community.
8. Equal opportunities for people with disabilities [page 35]
As regards equal opportunities for disabled people, entrepreneurs should take into account the following issues: – architectural accessibility: conducting accessibility audits, application of solutions that meet the needs of people with various disabilities, including systems supporting hearing, e.g., in conference rooms, main reception areas, facilities for the blind and visually impaired, ensuring the availability of sanitary facilities; – developing products, services, goods, and space based on the universal design concept or designing for everyone, including the disabled, seniors, pregnant women, people with baby strollers; – digital accessibility: accessible websites that should meet the WCAG 2.0 accessibility standard; accessibility of all digital content should be ensured, i.e., online publication of editable documents (e.g., open PDF, Word), avoiding scans of paper documents; – human resources policy: accessible working environment, employing disabled people (also other disadvantaged groups in the labour market); – application of rational improvements, i.e., changes and adjustments, in accordance with the needs of disabled employees and customers; – accessibility in information and promotion activities: social clauses in orders for the performance of tasks and services, communications (e.g., PR) expressed in a language that is easy to understand, respect for diversity, organisation of accessible events; – treatment of accessibility as the operating standard and the philosophy of the subject rather than a one-off operation. These issues are addressed both to the public administration and the business sector, and their implementation will enable the creation of modern-looking entities that are open to serving clients with diverse needs and effectively meet their expectations.