Kapka Panayotova

The Freedom Drive is one of the key campaigns of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL). The first Freedom Drive was held in Strasbourg in 2003, at the initiative of the late Martin Naughton from Ireland, and has been held every two years since. In 2015, the Freedom Drive moved from Strasbourg to Brussels, coinciding with the opening of ENIL Brussels Office. In 2024, ENIL will be holding its 12th Freedom Drive, celebrating its 35th Anniversary.

The Freedom Drive provides supporters of the Independent Living movement with the unique opportunity to meet Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), to promote the right to independent living and the implementation of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well to share experiences and ideas with fellow activists from around Europe.

The Freedom Drive has grown over the years and is now a 3-day event, bringing together up to 300 people. It has a rich programme, including the following events: workshops on topics related to independent living (such as personal assistance, deinstitutionalisation, youth etc.), a conference with sessions on multiple topics, a hearing in the European Parliament, a protest passing all the European Union institutions, and a party. There are opportunities for country delegations to meet their MEPs, and for the ENIL and ENIL Youth Board to get together. Until 2019, ENIL’s General Assembly was also held during the Freedom Drive, but from 2022, it was held online afterwards.

The Freedom Drive protest is an opportunity to raise awareness about the right to independent living and the need to close down institutions. In 2019, ENIL placed a cage in front of the European Commission, with a sign “Funded by the European Union”. The Freedom Drive protest featured in the 2019 Al Jazeera documentary “Europe’s Recurring Disability Shame (Part 1)”.

The Freedom Drive is open to disabled people, independent living activists, their friends, family members and allies. Participants are responsible for covering their own travel and accommodation expenses, but ENIL provides fundraising tips in advance of the event, as well as advice about finding accessible accommodation. For a small participation fee, participants have access to all events, coffee and lunch breaks, the party, and receive a Freedom Drive T-shirt and materials.

The next Freedom Drive is scheduled for 23 – 25 September 2024. More information, including the agenda and link to register, will be uploaded in the coming months under upcoming Events.

For more information contact: secretariat@enil.eu