The European Network on Independent Living has closed its 8th Freedom Drive yesterday, bringing an end to a week of promoting independent living, peer support, protest and celebration of disability rights. The Freedom Drive has brought together around 300 independent living activists from 19 countries, from as far East as Albania, to Norway in the North.
Among the main Freedom Drive demands were the end to institutionalisation of disabled people across Europe, access to personal assistance in all countries, full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the end to cuts to support services and benefits for disabled people.
The Freedom Drivers met with Members of the European Parliament, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen and other EU officials and organisations. One of the highlights of the week was a discussion on the right of disabled children and young people, and their families, to independent living, with a commitment of the Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness to ensure disabled children’s voices are heard at EU level.
ENIL has paid tribute during the week to the founder of the Freedom Drive, the late Martin Naughton, and other heroes of the Independent Living movement, such as Peter Lambreghts, Debbie Jolly and Donal Toolan. It was, however, a week of disability pride, with many young disabled people joining the march for Independent Living through Brussels and other events. The new leaders of ENIL were also elected by the organisation’s General Assembly, and will take the organisation forward as it embarks on the implementation of its 2018 – 2022 strategic plan.
Members of the new ENIL Board are: Kapka Panayotova (President, Bulgaria), Tove Brandvik (Vice-President, Norway), Armen Alaverdyan (Armenia), Maria Dahl (Sweden), Tara Flood (UK), Nadia Hadad (Belgium), Anna Hallgren (Sweden), Rados Keravica (Serbia) and Stelios Kympouropoulos (Greece).
The full report from the Freedom Drive will be available by the end of October at www.enil.eu