Brussels, 2 October – Over 400 disabled people and allies from all over Europe have gathered in Brussels this morning tomarch in protest between the European Commission’s main headquarters, the Berlaymont,  and the European Parliament building in Brussels. The activists, led by the European Network on Independent Living – ENIL, have one main demand: that EU funds stop being spent on residential institutions that segregate disable people and deny them the right to live independently.

Kapka Panayotova, President of ENIL stated: “EU funding allows countries to put disabled people into group homes and nursing homes, instead of making sure we have our own homes to live in. They need to start listening to disabled people and fund solutions that allow us to live where we want, with the support that we need!”

The rights of disabled people around Europe have suffered in recent years as a result of austerity measures and policies that seek to restrict access to personal assistance and community-based services, housing, education, advocacy support and legal aid, among other. While some have enjoyed better access to employment, those that require more extensive support are in many cases offered residential care, away from their family and friends.

“In France, only 20% autistic children go to school, sometimes only for some hours a week but most of them are in an institution or in a psychiatric hospital with no education.”, stated one of the youngest participants, with autism, Nicola Joncour.

This afternoon, the activists will meet Members of the European Parliament, with three issues on the table: align Europe’s disability strategy with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, end institutional care and promote access to community-based services for all in need, and work towards a common European social framework, to ensure freedom of movement for disabled people in the EU.

Notes for the editors

The ENIL Freedom Drive is one of the key campaigns of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) – held every two years since 2003. It provides supporters of the Independent Living Movement with the unique opportunity to meet Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and promote human rights issues, and to share experiences and ideas with others from around Europe.

For personal testimonies and contact information, see here.