Now in its 5th year, the European Independent Living Day is celebrated by disabled people, their families and friends across Europe. It is an opportunity to raise awareness about the right of all disabled people to live independently and to be included in the community, the many barriers disabled people face in their everyday lives and the increasingly difficult situation in many European countries.
Independent living, set out in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, requires that disabled people are provided with all the necessary means to exercise choice and control over their lives and to make all decisions about their lives. This means being able to choose where and with whom they live, who supports them, to have relationships, to work, to do sports, to have fun with friends or to be on their own. Independent living is incompatible with any form of institutionalisation or segregation, be it in residential care, special schools or sheltered workshops.
There are numerous barriers to independent living, not least the continued institutionalisation of disabled people in most member states of the European Union. Prejudice, stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes are still prevalent, as well as the idea that some disabled people cannot live independently.
The European Independent Living Day gives us an opportunity to show that we are, as the motto of the Independent Living Movement suggests, ‘proud, strong and visible’. Disabled people’s organisations will be taking to the streets, sharing information about their rights, staging events, documenting barriers and speaking to the politicians and the media. To mark the occasion, the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) organised a screening of Defiant Lives, a documentary about the history of the disability movement, at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Independent living should be a priority every single day and nothing should stop disabled people from enjoying their human rights on an equal footing with other citizens. Until this becomes a reality, the European Independent Living Day on the 5th May remains a day when we get together and remind Europe that independent living is a right, not a privilege.
For more information, please contact ENIL’s Advocacy Officer Frank Sioen at firstname.lastname@example.org.