Personal Assistance as a condition of freedom

When we were at the beginning of our struggle for our right to personal assistance and we started looking for role models we began by reading up on the history of the independent living movement. We were very surprised to find out how similar the struggle these pioneers faced was to our humble beginnings. The only difference was that 30 years had passed since their effort had been embarked upon and that socio-economical situation and historical and cultural contexts are now vastly different.

Not only did we have to fight for our right to independent living outside of institutions and to close those institutions down, we were also forced to fight against the experts who would not let us go out of their clinch of treatment. For them, medical model was the ultimate solution and the safest way of maintaining and supporting their illusion of professionalism. We also had to convince politicians that we wanted to live, not merely passively languish, dragging ourselves through life. It was difficult to hammer into their heads why we did not want to live in institutions that they built just for us, so that people can provide care for us and that we are safe from the outside environment. Last but not least, we slowly worked our way to make the public aware that we are nothing special, we don’t demand nothing special and that we just want to live normal lives with all the rights and responsibilities that other people have and that we indeed can take responsibility for our decisions, even though they may seem wrong to them. We are addressing these events in past tense, but the truth is, these issues are still as current today as they were then. 

We still have not managed to root out old prejudices on our (in) ability to work and live independently. We have not managed to root out the practice of putting people into institutions and building new ones, which are seemingly pleasant, nice, collared but they are still nothing more but institutions. Systemic discriminations which are deeply rooted in people’s convictions and intertwined with Law are still very much present in Slovenian society. This is especially true in the areas of employment, accessibility and assistance to those who need help with their daily activities. Excuses of economic nature are still offered when we ask why no measures are taken and why the legislature and legal practice are not being modified. We are in a time of economic crises, it costs too much, our country is not yet able to make such an advanced transition are all too common excuses that we still have to face.

Elena Pečarič

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