Brussels, 3 December – As we mark this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), we are thinking of the hundreds of thousands of disabled people in Europe locked away in institutions, exposed to human rights abuses, segregated from their families and the rest of society, and with no control over their lives. We are also thinking of those disabled people unable to make basic choices, because of the lack of personal assistance, accessibility and legal capacity, among other.
The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) advocates for the right to live independently and to be included in the community for all disabled people. We do so by raising concerns about the laws, policies and practices which go against Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In addition, we provide guidance to governments, service providers and organisations on how to move away from institutional care and develop community-based alternatives which facilitate the right to independent living. We advocate for disabled people’s access to mainstream services, rather than the creation of parallel systems.
One such example of our work on deinstitutionalisation is the study visit to Sweden, organised in September for a group of disability activists and local authorities from Bulgaria, Spain and Lithuania. The film which came out of the study visit – which we are launching on the occasion of IDPD – summarises the key success factors for closing down institutions and replacing them with a system that facilitates inclusion and participation of disabled people in society.
We hope this film inspires disabled people advocating for deinstitutionalisation in their countries, and that it encourages authorities to create strategies based on a vision of independent living and community participation for all. We are grateful to Patrick Doodt for his pro bono work on the film, as well as to all those that made the study visit possible – the Stockholm Disability Ombudsperson, STIL, Sodexo, the National Board of Health and Welfare, Bosse, the Swedish Agency for Participation and the Stockholm Town Hall – Green Party. We wish to also thank the Open Society Foundations – Mental Health Initiative for supporting ENIL’s work on Article 19 of the CRPD.
Watch “Institutions are Not Solutions: Learning from the Swedish Experience” (long version)
European Network on Independent Living – ENIL