On 7 September, the Board of the European Network on Independent Living decided unanimously to postpone the next Freedom Drive until September 2022. This decision has not been made lightly, as it is a key event in the calendar of Europe’s Independent Living movement, but it had to be made due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Although we cannot predict how the pandemic will evolve, the Freedom Drive takes over one year of intense preparation. It involves not just planning all the events in Brussels, but also fundraising and planning by our members from countries around Europe. Given the effect of COVID-19 on disabled people and their organisations, we did not want to add the burden of having to decide whether to join the Freedom Drive or not. We are aware of the fact that the majority of disabled people are still shielding at home and are not planning to travel in the foreseeable future.
This means that the next Freedom Drive and the General Assembly, with Board elections, will take place in September 2022. We will use the time we have to plan an exciting event and we hope to give everyone something to look forward to in these difficult times.
To make sure that there is not too big of a gap, we will plan a series of online events for September 2021 – we have decided to call this “the Freedom Surf”. These might include online workshops, exhibitions and protests, depending on the suggestions we receive in the meantime. A survey will be going out until the end of the year to find out what topics and events everyone would like to see included.
We also encourage those with MEPs in the European Parliament to reach out to them now and ask for commitment to supporting the participation of Independent Living delegates in the 2022 Freedom Drive. We can use these two years to build up political support for Independent Living and to make sure we have a record participation of activists from across Europe.
Please follow ENIL’s website and Facebook page for Freedom Drive and Freedom Surf updates.