ENIL was contacted by Gisele Caumont – one of the proactive members of the Independent Living movement, who is French, but nowadays lives in Sweden1. She shared with us a strong letter, written on the occasion of an interview with Nicolas Sarkozy – French president between 2007 and 2012. Below is her letter.
“February 6th, Antenna 2, you spoke of the appalling way “handicapped”, including myself. I am in an electric wheelchair and you said that we are causing many problems to the French society: we cost! Because of us, the new construction bathrooms are larger than the bedrooms! But yes! How awful! And if it was just that… But no, it is much worse! Making the city accessible is unthinkable. Adapting schools by installing lifts is a scandal. It is much easier to segregate! Fortunately, you have the solution for everything as elsewhere:
⁃ landscape is only a few apartments in the same place and we finally make the bedrooms bigger,
⁃ renouncing development of public places is the way to save money!
⁃ grouping disabled children in two or three schools. It’s so simple… No matter that they leave their neighborhood and friends.
You thought of everything. But then Sir, for years we struggle to be included into French society. We fight for children with disabilities to be integrated into the school of their neighborhood in the middle of their buddies. We fight for free access to public places and places for recreation. We fight even, strangely enough? We fight in order to do ordinary things like going to the toilet just like everyone does, just like you do, Mr. Sarkozy. We struggle to live in the apartment of our choice, to the place of our choice along with everyone else.
Nobody knows if one day, you’ll find yourself in a wheelchair, if your child due to an accident or disease does not find him/herself disabled… If your wife or one of your best friends will not experience life in a wheelchair. In that case, welcome to the ideal society you describe. You will discover the charms.
I would like to point out that you seem completely ignorant of the Conventions on Disability of the European Union and the United Nations that France has signed and ratified. You went entirely against them last night.
I left France in 1999 to live in Sweden where benefits of persons with disabilities are remarkable. A number of articles and reports in France have mentioned me and my flight to Sweden. Last night I was ashamed for France. I will continue to shout loudly until my last breath which is not far since I am 78 years. I will continue to denounce the outrageous comments like those you dared last night.
I also use this letter to say that France is far from the height also in the reception of refugees. Sweden is a model of its kind to receive them in decent conditions when they arrive by thousands each day.
After being defeated in the presidential elections you dare come back saying you have changed. On disability issues you have gotten worse, sir.
I kept my French nationality and therefore can vote in the next presidential elections. No risk I vote for you or your party. I really know why I would not! Everything must be done to prevent your return. And from now on I will work for this.”
1 – you can read an article about Gisele Caumont published on the ENIL website in 2010 from here.