Last summer ÉFOÉSZ (The Hungarian Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities) launched a new blog. It is written by self-advocates and peer supporters. It mainly contains articles in easy-to-read format.
ENIL presents you an interview from this blog, made by László Bercse, Hungarian self-advocate and co-president of ÉFOÉSZ. He spoke with Senada Halilcevic – a self-advocate from Croatia. The interview was taken in Inclusion Europe’s office in Brussels. Senda spent most of her life in institutions. Today she lives independently and is also successful in her job. She is the leader of EPSA (European Platform of Self-Advocates) and works in ASA (Association for Self-Advocacy) in Croatia. László discussed with her ways in which the European self-advocacy movement could become stronger. In the interview, Senada also speaks about how disabled people moving out from institutions can be really independent and part of the community.
LB: Please introduce yourself and tell us what you work.
SH: I am Senada Halilcevic from Croatia. I am the chairperson of EPSA and the president of Association for Self-Advocacy in Zagreb.
LB: Please explain to us shortly what you do at ASA. What do you fight for? How do you do it?
SH: I work as a self-advocate on project activities. My job is to participate in the work of the ASA’s self-advocacy group, go to meetings with decision makers, participate in preparing materials in easy-to-read format, i.e. brochures and newsletters and hold workshops and trainings on self-determination and self-advocacy. I represent the Association for Self-Advocacy in public events and at conferences on national and international level.
I fight for every person with a disability to be respected and treated with dignity. I do it by being actively involved in advocacy activities of my organisation and by cooperating with other self-advocacy groups in Croatia and Europe.
LB: How many self-advocates work for ASA? How many self-advocates are there all together in your country?
SH: There are around 35 self-advocates in ASA. There are around 100-150 active self-advocates in Croatia. They are members of self-advocacy groups in different Croatian cities. ASA and all other self-advocacy groups cooperate and work together in the Network of Croatian Self-Advocates.
LB: Do you have the right to vote? Do you practice your right to vote?
SH: Yes, I have legal capacity, so I can also vote. I go voting to every election.
LB: In Croatia, do politicians and the media care about the problems of people with disabilities?
SH: Not really. For example, when it is the Day of Persons with Disabilities, they talk about these issues. Otherwise, they don’t. There are some radio and TV programs on national radio-television broadcasting service. So people with disabilities and related issues have some platform in the media, but politicians don’t really show much interest in our problems.
LB: How can you describe the attitude of your government towards NOGs?
SH: The way they treat NGOs at the moment is not good, but we hope it is going to be better than the treatment of the last government. The last government treated NGOs very badly. For example they cut back the financial support provided for NGOs.
LB: Is there an inclusive education system in your country?
SH: No, there is not. There are special schools and regular schools. Nowadays more and more regular schools have assistants to support pupils with disabilities. But these initiatives are done by local communities and civil society organizations. There are some related projects where they can apply for money to do this. But as a national system, we don’t have inclusive education.
LB: In Hungary many people with disabilities are going to move out from institutions. You had lived in institutions for a long a time. What do you think we have to pay attention on when closing institutions?
SH: First of all, the right support is very important. People who come out from institutions need support to get a job and get included in community. They should have power in making decisions on their own. The support should help persons with disabilities to make decisions and to inform them about the effects of their decisions. Only this way they are really going to be part of the local community. Secondly, accessibility is really important. So persons who are going to move out from institutions and live in the community must have access to all necessary services available to all other citizens.
LB: As the chairperson of EPSA, what do you think: How could we work together more effectively?
SH: As I see it, self-advocates face similar issues in all European countries. We will need to create common requests about what we want and how to solve these issues. This way we can push European Commission to make policies that will be good for us. And we must work with our national governments to get our requests recognised and taken seriously.
LB: Would you come to Hungary one day?
SH: I have been there 2 or 3 times. I liked it a lot, so I would go back.
LB: Thank you for the interview!
SH: Thank you for the opportunity!
You can read another interview with Senada on her view of institutions and independent living here.
Photos: ASA (Association for Self-Advocacy)