ENIL 2017 Freedom Drive – September 24th – 28th, Brussels

2017 Events Dedicated to Martin Naughton, the Father of the Freedom Drive

The ENIL Freedom Drive is one of the key campaigns of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) – held every two years since 2003. It provides supporters of the Independent Living Movement with the unique opportunity to meet Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and promote human rights issues, as well to share experiences and ideas with colleagues from around Europe. The first 6 editions of the event took place in Strasbourg, until 2015, when for the first time the venue was changed to Brussels for strategic reasons.

The ENIL 2017 Freedom Drive will take place between 24th and 28th September, in Brussels again. It will be dedicated to Martin Naughton – the father of the ENIL Freedom Drive – who we lost in 2016. It will consist of a series of events, culminating with a march from the European Parliament to the European Commission, under the theme ’Independent Living Heroes: Past, Present and Future’. ENIL invites all the members, disabled people’s organisations, disabled people and allies to join us in Brussels during this exciting week, so that we can once again show we are proud, strong and visible!

Goals of the ENIL 2017 Freedom Drive

  • To raise the key concerns of the European Independent Living movement with the European policy and decision makers in Brussels;
  • To raise awareness about the need for an accessible Brussels – our European capital;
  • To remember the leaders of the European Independent Living movement who left us in 2016, such as the founder of the Freedom Drive, Martin Naughton, as well as our colleagues Peter Lambreghts and Debbie Jolly, and to celebrate and inspire current and future leaders;
  • To discuss how to make the Independent Living movement more inclusive – of children with disabilities and other voices that may not be heard;
  • To facilitate an exchange of ideas and knowledge on Independent Living, with the aim to inspire Independent Living activists;
  • To provide opportunities for development of new ideas, strategies and partnerships.

Freedom Drive on Facebook.

Download Freedom Drive’s flyer here.

Overview of the week*

24 September:

18:00h-20:00h – Freedom Drive kick off. Time to meet and speak in an informal atmosphere with the ENIL Board, Staff and other Freedom Drivers. There will be access to refreshments that will be on sale.

Venue: Meeting rooms at Mundo J, Rue de l’Industrie 10

25 September:

Motivational Events – meetings on subjects that ENIL members find important. The deadline to send suggestions for motivational meetings is 30 April. Please let us know if you have a topic which you would like discussed or if you wish to take a lead on the meeting that will be open to other Freedom Drivers. Please write to dilyana.deneva@enil.eu

Venue: Meeting rooms at Mundo J, Rue de l’Industrie 10

26 September:

National MEP meetings – a chance for Freedom Drivers to meet their MEPs and visit Brussels. Before or after the meetings, you are welcome to pass by and visit the ENIL office and meet the ENIL Board and Staff.

Venue: European Parliament

27 September:

10:00h – 12:30h: March from the European Parliament to the European Commission under the theme ’Independent Living Heroes: Past, Present and Future’

Venue: Meeting point near the European Parliament (TBC)

13:00h – 14:00h  Pre-conference lunch (for conference participants)

14:00h – 17:00 h   ENIL Freedom Drive Conference on the topic ’Independent Living: A Voice for All’

Venue: Autoworld, Parque de Cirquantenaire 11

14:00h – 14:30 Opening session with Commissioner Thyssen

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen will open the conference, and we will have other exciting speakers to learn from and have a discussion with. There will be a disabled child speaking in each of the sessions.

14:30h – 15:45h   Panel 1 – The protection of children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD)

15:45h – 16:45h   Panel 2 – Moving on to better inclusion and participation of disabled children in the disability movement

16:45h – 17:00h   Conference Closure

17:30h – 19:30h   ENIL General Assembly

19:30h – 23:00h   Celebration Cocktail and Dinner


28 September:

Independent Living development meetings – various meetings with organisations active at the EU level to develop ideas, strategies and partnerships on Independent Living (with meetings to be confirmed by the end of April)

In order to inform us about the topics you are interested in, please see the poll below and either send your preference to dilyana.deneva@enil.eu or complete the Facebook Poll.

Topics I would like to discuss during during the Development Meetings: 1) children’s rights, 2) women’s rights, 3) refugees’ rights, 4) migrants’ rights, 5) human rights

Venue: Different locations in the EU quarter in Brussels

*Please note that this programme is subject to changes.

Freedom Drive events

Motivational and capacity building meetings: These small meetings will provide the Freedom Drivers with an opportunity to learn something new, or to exchange experiences or ideas with activists from other countries. We would like to invite those organisations who would like to organise a meeting for other Freedom Drivers to send an email to dilyana.deneva@enil.eu by the end of April. This can be on any topic – campaigning, fighting the cuts, inclusive education, establishing a CIL – to name a few. The meetings will have the capacity of 10 – 30 people, depending on the meeting room.

National MEP meetings: You will have the unique opportunity to meet your national MEPs and discuss issues related to disability policy in your country. These meetings need to be organised by the national groups – send invitations to your MEPs as soon as possible (via email/phone) and suggest a meeting on 26th September in the European Parliament. You can find a list of MEPs and their contact details here.

ENIL General Assembly: ENIL will hold its General Assembly on 27th September, in Autoworld, Parque de Cirquantenaire 11. During the ENIL GA the ENIL board elections are held.  You can send in nominations for persons to the ENIL board along with the CV of the person. Please send these to Jamie.bolling@enil.eu no later than June 15, 2017.

At the ENIL GA the constitution will be updated. The suggested changes can be found here. If you want to discuss the proposed changes or any other changes, join an online meeting on 23 May from 19:00h until 20:30h CET. To book a place, please send an email to dilyana.deneva@enil.eu stating your name and country of residence.

All Freedom Drivers are welcome to attend the General Assembly, but only ENIL Full members (individual and organisations) have the right to vote. Proxy voting will be possible; more information on this is to follow closer to the event date.

March: The Freedom Drive March is the culmination of the exciting event. Freedom Drivers will gather near the European Parliament, equipped with whistles, banners, clappers and similar noise-making tools. This year’s march theme is ’Independent Living Heroes: Past, Present and Future’, and we invite Freedom Drivers to create banners with the photos or quotes from their Independent Living heroes. The march will end in front of the European Commission, where we will be met by MEPs and European Commission officials (some of whom may join the march).

Conference: The conference will focus on the topic ’Independent Living: A Voice for All!’. It will open with a welcome session involving the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen. Other sessions will provide a space to discuss how to ensure that disabled children have a stronger voice within the Independent Living movement, and what support services are needed to support families with disabled children. A draft conference agenda can be found here.

Celebration: After the march and the conference, the only logical end of the day (27th September) is a proper celebration! It will start at 19:00h in Autoworld, Parque de Cirquantenaire 11. A dinner where you can mingle with the other Freedom Drivers will be followed by a party (how wild/fun would depend on you!).

Development meetings: ENIL will organise several meetings with other EU-level organisations in Brussels, with whom we wish to develop better partnerships in the future. The decision on whom to meet will be up the ENIL Board, the ENIL Youth Board and staff. Some of the meetings will be open to all the Freedom Drivers, on a first come, first serve basis.

Registering for the Freedom Drive

All Freedom Drive participants must complete the Registration Form and indicate which part of the program they plan to attend. Please send the completed form to Dilyana Deneva at dilyana.deneva@enil.eu by 15th June.

The Freedom Drive participation fee covers all the materials for the week-long event, a T-shirt, coffee breaks, food and drinks at the celebration dinner and party. It is 25 EUR per person for ENIL Members and 50 EUR for non-members. Instructions on how to make this contribution can be found in the Registration form. Those who plan to attend only the conference and/or march, and no other event, do not need to pay the participation fee. ENIL has prepared an updated fundraising guide and a template letter to potential sponsors in order to help you.

Please note that those planning to join only the march, and no other event, do not need to complete the registration form.

Transport around Brussels and accommodation

ENIL is currently in talks with the Brussels authorities on how to ensure that wheelchair users are able to use public transport. We will be making sure that additional accessible buses are available and that all the information is provided well in advance.

Participants are responsible for arranging their travel to Brussels and their accommodation. In the links below, you will find information about the hotels and the city of Brussels. You will also find a fundraising guide, with ideas on how to raise funds for taking part in the Freedom Drive.

During the Freedom Drive, an information point will be set up in Mundo J, on Rue de l’Industrie 10, and will be manned by one of ENIL staff during the office hours.

Useful contacts

For more information, please contact the Freedom Drive Coordinator Dilyana Deneva at dilyana.deneva@enil.eu

A list of national contact persons is available here. They will be able to provide you with more information about who is coming from your country and how to organise a group of participants to travel together, as well as with materials you may need to plan your trip.


Fundraising guide (2015) Link
Fundraising guide (2017) Link
List of hotels in Brussels with accessible rooms Link
List of less expensive places near Brussels Link
Informational website about Brussels Link
Website about Brussels’ transport accessibility Link

For further information, please contact secretariat@enil.eu

Last updated on 28 April 2017