With inspiration gained from the Strasbourg Freedom Drive Vibeke Maroy Melström, President of the European Network on Independent Living called for a renewal and stronger Independent Living movement and for a louder voice against the cuts to be heard in Europe.
In her speech at the Strasbourg Freedom Drive Vibeke said “I come from Norway, a country that has so far avoided the economic downturn experienced by many European countries. Norwegian politicians like to portray Norway as a modern, democratic nation with equality and equal opportunities for all. But not even in as prosperous a country as Norway, does this apply to us disabled people. Before Easter, the Norwegian Government presented a bill that will entitle disabled people to user-controlled personal assistance. We all believed that we had reason to rejoice after many years of campaigning for the right to user-controlled personal assistance to be enshrined in law, but unfortunately, the bill is so poor that it will actually put back the situation of disabled Norwegians by several decades by offering us poorer welfare services than we have in Norway at present. Costs are used as an argument in this case too, in a country that, so far at least, is still envied by many other countries for its prosperity. In other words, we must continue to fight as fiercely as ever for inclusion and equality in society, also in Norway.”
The proposed bill for personal assistance would limit people from leaving their municipality with the support of a personal assistance – this goes against the freedom of movement. A person will also not be able to attend a party with a personal assistant – are we not to be able to go out and have fun? Yet we claim equal opportunity! The proposed bill sees toilet needs as a medical act, so people will have to stay at home and not be able to go out freely if they have these needs. These are only some of the suggested changes that resulted in ULOBA formulating their own proposal for a new legislation.
There is proof through this process taking place in Norway and through the many austerity measures taking place in the European Union that there is a backlash against Independent Living and disabled people in Europe today. The ratification of the UN CRPD was to ensure that the situation for disabled people was not to go backwards but implementation is proving the opposite!
Jamie Bolling – Executive Director of ENIL