On 5th May, every year since 2014, we are celebrating the European Independent Living Day, together with our members and allies. Year by year, we were becoming louder and more visible across Europe (and beyond). We had the same expectations for 2020, however the COVID-19 pandemic came and changed everything, not only for us but for the whole world.

Despite the lockdown and the unprecedented situations we experienced, we adapted quickly, continued with our work, and of course our intention was to celebrate the European Independent Living Day as initially planned. The pandemic wouldn’t stop us, and, as we saw, it didn’t stop our members either!

The theme we have chosen for this year was “Liberty” (before the COVID-19 became a real issue in Europe, almost prophetically). Some of the questions we addressed to our members and others were: “What does liberty means to you?”, “Do you know anyone who was deprived of liberty on account of being disabled, (and afterwards) or because of COVID-19?”etc. The response was very impressive.

We heard about different activities in more than 20 European countries. We received more than 100 photos, with what liberty means to people. Many of these were very creative and artistic. In addition, we were sent numerous personal stories and statements on liberty and institutionalisation, as well as two poems on the topic. Webinars, media interviews, videos and other virtual activities were organised by many of our members. Our two online events – the webinar on Disabled Refugees and Liberty, and the European premiere of the Wheelchair Road Movie – were well attended and much appreciated.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the European Independent Living Day was also supported by the European Commissioner on Equality, Helena Dalli, by at least two MEPs (Katrin Langensiepen from Germany, and Stelios Kympouropoulos from Greece) and by several EU-level disability organisations.

Thank you for another LOUD and PROUD European Independent Living Day, and until we meet again next year!

#ILDay2020 #ThisIsLiberty #FreeOurPeople

For more information about the European Independent Living Day, established by the European Network on Independent Living in 2014, please see here.