Newcomer to Community Group (PK0699/06/20/2024) | Austrian Parliament

VIENNA (PK) – The bill presented by coalition parties aims to bring about various improvements for the disabled, amending the Federal Disability Act and the Disability Employment Act (4116/A). Among other things, it plans to strengthen the Disability Advocate and the Federal Advisory Council for the Disabled, and to provide financial protection of €870,000 annually to the Austrian Council for the Disabled. Additionally, companies with at least 400 employees must appoint an access officer. Bureaucratic relief is also part of the package when applying for a disabled pass.

According to the draft law, the Federal Advisory Committee on Disability will in future not only advise the Ministry of Social Affairs, but the entire government and be consulted on all matters affecting people with disabilities. Against this backdrop, the number of advisory board members will also be increased. In future, as each ministry will send a representative to the Advisory Committee, the number of representatives of persons with disabilities will also be increased equally. In addition, a commission will be set up within the Advisory Committee responsible for preparing reports, reports and recommendations. In particular, it should include interested representatives, victims and disabled advocates.

The Office of the Disability Advocate, an important counseling and contact point for people with disabilities who have experienced discrimination, is also being developed. A disability advocate should always perform this function on a full-time basis, and representation by this independent and non-directive body should be more clearly regulated. In addition, regional offices may be set up in the future, although according to explanations, these are initially planned in Vienna, Salzburg and Graz. It aims to make access to disability support a low threshold. At the same time, it is clear that in case of suspected discrimination, a disability lawyer can conduct an arbitration procedure at the Ministry of Social Affairs Services on behalf of the person concerned.

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The terms of the Federal Advisory Committee on Disabilities and the Disability Advocate will be extended from four to five years.

In order to reduce the administrative burden on PWDs, the existing databases will prioritize the photograph required while applying for a PWD permit in future. There are also programs that facilitate identity verification.

Access authorities in large organizations

With the proposed amendment to the Employment of Persons with Disabilities Act, the ministries’ existing accessibility officers will be incorporated into the Act and their responsibilities will be clearly regulated. Additionally, companies employing more than 400 employees will also have to appoint access officers in future. Allies expect greater consideration of accessibility needs during planning. This helps save the time and costs of subsequent adaptations, it says in the explanations.

Further changes affect the legal requirements for incorporated companies. In addition, due to divergent case law between OGH and VwGH, it has been legally clarified that a disability permit alone does not constitute proof that an employee belongs to a disability group benefiting from benefits. (end) gs

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