What is your personal experience of disability?
I have been a wheelchair user since the age of 10. I have been actively involved in Serbia’s disability movement since 1993, first in the Muscular Dystrophy Association as leader of the Youth Group, then as one of the founders of CIL Serbia in 1996 and legal expert of the national union of Serbia’s DPOs.
Is there an area of Independent Living that you are especially interested in?
The human rights of persons with disabilities, their protection and promotion, and the legislation necessary for implementation in practice, like the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and national anti-discrimination legislation.
Who has influenced you the most, and how?
My parents, especially my mother, by encouraging me to join mainstream life regardless of my disability, to attend regular school and use my intellect, to believe in justice and value honesty and integrity above all.
Other significant influences include Professor Mihailo Djuric, a Serbian lawyer and philosopher, political dissident in Communist times who forecasted the break-up of Yugoslavia because of the separatism of various republics and was imprisoned for saying that out loud in the 1970s; some philosophers and promoters of ideas of justice who upheld them regardless of repression, like the Renaissance
author Thomas Moore or ancient Roman authors like Tacitus who taught me dignity and integrity through their words and actions.
Staff and teachers at International School Dusseldorf where I graduated, too numerous to be mentioned by names – my University mentor, Professor Vojin Dimitrijevic and my professors, Jovica Trkulja, Vladimir Vodinelic and Vesna Knezevic- Predic, also influenced me a lot and taught me how to research law and write scientific works.
Most recent influences include Ambassador Don Makkay, from whom I learned immensely on leadership, diplomacy and dignity in the course of the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Also many leaders of the disability movement, too
numerous to be mentioned by name, who inspired me to work towards full and equal participation of persons with disabilities.
What personal achievement are you most proud of?
My academic successes – graduating with highest honors at the University of Belgrade, having a Master’s degree in International Public Law and PhD in Political Sciences; my participation in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as legal
expert in Serbia’s delegation and drafting numerous Serbian laws on the rights of persons with disabilities, including the Law on the Prevention of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities; the privilege of being able to give lectures on the rights of persons with disabilities across the globe, to work with many great people and have wonderful friends.
What motivates you to get up in the morning?
The possibility of talking to and seeing my friends, the chance to read some good books or listen to some good music, the opportunity to work with colleagues on further promoting the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in Serbian society.
What makes you laugh?
Agatha Christie’s and Arthur Conan Doyle’s ability to mix sharp humour with intricate detective mysteries, the mix of irony and goofball humour in ‘The Simpsons’, other series like ‘Only Fools and Horses’, ‘Black Adder’, ‘Monk’, ‘’Allo, ‘allo’, ‘Friends’, ‘Will and Grace’, Jack Lemon and Walter Mattau, Woody Allen, Fernando Trueba, Emir Kusturica, Slobodan Sijan and Federico Fellinni’s movies
What makes you angry?
Hypocrisy and arrogance, politicians’ tendency to put political allegiances before competence, the gap between the texts of legislation and the practice of its implementation.
What do you do to relax?
Read mystery, horror and historical novels, as well as classic authors like Poe, Shakespeare, Caesar, Tacitus, Orwell, Marquez, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Llosa, Kafka and many others and Serbian masters Andric, Pekic; listen to heavy metal, blues and classical music; sit in my garden; watch some series or sports events on TV; chat and go out with friends
Where were you and what were you doing 10 years ago?
In Belgrade, participating in the civic protests against Milosevic’s regime, volunteering in an NGO for heritage protection, and earned a living by translating legal texts.
Do you think anything has changed for people with disabilities in the last 10 years?
Yes. Over the past decade a significant legal framework has been created that represents a powerful tool for the full participation and equality of persons with disabilities. At an international level, the framework is provided by the Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities. At a regional level, the Council of Europe adopted various documents, including Action plan and the EU adopted a number of directives, action plans and other documents. Many countries adopted anti-discrimination legislation and disability strategies.
Persons with disabilities are no longer invisible citizens; public attitudes towards persons with disabilities have changed a lot, the public authorities see the disability movement as partners in the development of the legal framework. Still, there is a lot of work ahead before persons with disabilities enjoy full and equal participation in all fields of society. The process of equalization of opportunities is like a marathon run and only half of the race had been run so far.