Towards the end of last year, ENIL, in cooperation with Nic Crosby (GatherBuildWork), decided to relaunch and reinvent the European Coalition for Community Living (ECCL), as an open platform and a resource for supporting independent living and the closure of institutions for disabled people.
ECCL was founded in 2005 by ENIL, Autism Europe, the Center for Policy Studies of the Central European University, the European Disability Forum, Inclusion Europe, Mental Health Europe and the Open Society Mental Health Initiative. It was taken over by ENIL in 2008 and until 2011 it has organised a variety of activities – advocating for independent living, monitoring the use of EU funds, holding seminars and publishing a Newsletter.
In 2017, we started looking again into how we can practically support and link independent living advocates and allies, working to close down institutions for disabled people and promote the right to independent living in their countries. Everybody agrees that there is a lot of expertise around Europe, and the world, on how to facilitate independent living for all disabled people. However, activists still struggle to access this know-how and often feel alone in their effort.
Given that ECCL does not have a budget, we discussed ways in which we could do this work at a low cost. We therefore decided to launch a series of webinars, looking at different components of the process of deinstitutionalisation. The webinars will run until December 2018, and the first three have already taken place.
In the first webinar, in January, we heard from colleagues who helped close institutions (John Dalrymple, Scotland), or have helped start the process of deinstitutionalisation (Miroslav Cangar, Slovakia). In the second webinar, we heard why inclusive education is key to independent living and how to promote it (Tara Flood, UK) and what it takes to get people out of institutions and reinstore their legal capacity (Milena Johnova, Czech Republic). In the most recent webinar, we learned how to work with people and the staff in institutions, with the aim of getting people out (Anja Kutnjak and Andreja Rafaelic, Slovenia) and how a focus on citizenship can help ensure people have a good life in the community, rather than end up in ‘serviceland’ (Kate Fulton, Australia). If you missed any of the webinars, you can find recordings in the News section of the ECCL website.
The next webinar, scheduled for 27th April, will focus on leadership and working together. We will hear from Steven Eidelman, a well-know advocate for community living of people with intellectual disabilities in the US, and a co-director of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities. We will also hear from Jamie Bolling, the Director of Independent Living Institute in Sweden, about co-operation between the Nordic countries and how it helps promote independent living.
Future webinars will focus on working with local communities, the role of young people, and supporting people with complicated lives and support needs.
Apart from running webinars, ECCL will seek to strengthen a community of individuals promoting independent living and working towards the closure of institutions. Through a mailing list, which anyone can join, we will share useful resources, ideas for creative projects to promote deinstitutionalisation, and provide opportunities to seek help and advice. We also aim to reach out to Governments, with the aim of getting them to learn from disabled people themselves and policies/models in line with Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
We invite you to join ECCL and share information about what is happening in your country, as well as resources that may be useful to others. To join the mailing list, please e-mail Nic Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org. To register for the next webinar on the 27th April, please click here.