Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se
Sweden’s disability policy
Around 10–20 per cent of people in the western world have a disability of some kind. The overarching goal of the Swedish government’s disability policy is to give people with disabilities a greater chance of participating in society on the same terms as others.
The aim: equal opportunities
‘Design for all’ is one of the guiding principles in Sweden’s accessibility work. General inaccessibility means that people with functional disabilities do not have the same opportunities as others to participate in community life. The Swedish government is working to overcome this problem in various ways. If society is designed for all, it is also accessible to all.
Overall responsibility for improving accessibility is divided between different levels of government and public agencies:
- The Swedish government and parliament establish guidelines for disability policies, mainly through legislation.
- Government agencies have a national responsibility for specific sectors, including education, healthcare and employment.
- The county councils are responsible for health and medical care.
- The 290 Swedish municipalities are responsible for education and social services, among other things.
There are strict accessibility regulations in the Planning and Building Act and the Planning and Building Ordinance, aiming to enable as many people as possible to participate in society on equal terms. If people with disabilities need to have their accommodation modified to fit their specific needs, the have the right to apply for a grant from their local council/municipality.
Having the possibility to travel without hindrance is of vital importance to people with disabilities. All citizens must be able to work, study and take part in community activities on equal terms.
To this end, the Swedish government has instructed the country’s municipalities to initiate moves to make facilities such as bus and tram stops more accessible, which is all part of the Public Transportation Act (link in Swedish).
People with a permanent disability who have great difficulty travelling or using public transport can receive a car allowance from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. This also applies to parents of children with functional impairments.
Finding a job
The state is responsible for helping people to find and keep jobs through its public employment agencies. Employers who hire people whose work capacity is limited are sometimes entitled to wage subsidies. The state-owned services and goods provider Samhall offers people with disabilities meaningful employment that furthers their personal development.
The justice system
All citizens should feel that laws are reasonable and relevant, that the justice system is there for them, and that it is effective and ensures compliance with their legal rights.
Accordingly, police authorities must analyse their operations from a disability perspective. For instance, crime victims with disabilities must be able to understand the information they get. Also, the Swedish National Courts Administration are tasked with making Swedish courts more accessible.
The public sector communicates mostly via digital channels. New tools may give people with disabilities a greater degree of independence. Special emphasis is therefore being placed on digital inclusion in Sweden’s national digital strategy.
The legal right to independence
The Act concerning Support and Service to Persons with Certain Functional Disabilities (LSS) (link in Swedish9 was enforced in 1994. It is a human rights law designed to offer people with extensive disabilities greater opportunities to lead independent lives, and to ensure that they have equal living conditions and enjoy full participation in community life.
The law gives people with certain disabilities the right to personal assistance, a form of support that is mostly funded by taxes. The amount of help they receive is determined by the extent of their disabilities. People not covered by it can seek assistance from their local council/municipality under the Social Services Act (link in Swedish).
The Discrimination Act
In 2009, the Discrimination Act was introduced in Sweden, its general purpose being to strengthen the legal protection of the individual and to help victims of discrimination obtain redress and financial compensation.
The Act combats discrimination on the grounds of gender, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other beliefs, disability, sexual orientation or age, and is divided into two parts:
- The proactive part of the law imposes a duty to take positive action and concerns working life and the educational system.
- The reactive part of the law deals with the prohibition of discrimination in working life, in the educational system and in other areas of society.
The Equality Ombudsman (DO) monitors compliance with these laws.
The UN’s Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities is a cornerstone of Swedish disability policy. The Swedish government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008.
Unlike the Standard Rules, the Convention is legally binding. As a result, Sweden has committed to ensuring that national legislation does not discriminate against people with disabilities.
Last updated: 29 November 2019