Six years ago ENIL published an interview with one of the strongest Independent Living activists in Europe – Gisele Caumont (available here). Recently she wrote a letter of outrage instigated by an interview with Nicolas Sarkozy from 6th February. Today we present you with the story of her life now, asking her:
Since our last meeting six years ago, what has been happening, Gisèle?
“I am old … It is not easy to grow old and even more difficult to age with a severe physical impairment! Fortunately, I still have all necessary personal assistance here in Sweden allowing me a life with quality. I look forward to every day living in Sweden and am glad I am not in France where I would most probably be living in an institution. That I will never accept! I have slowed down my activities to rest more and enjoy the nature here where I live in the middle of Swedish forests.
I am engaged in an anti-racist movement because the refugee problem touches me enormously. The isolation in camps awaiting regularization of papers must certainly be very difficult to live. I am particularly concerned by the plight of child and adult disabled refugees. Where are they? What support are they receiving? I think Independent Living should show them solidarity. For the moment, there is a most complete silence.
I am always filled with a lot of energy and life force that I want to use primarily at the level of disability. I am very frustrated not to do anything, or almost nothing… My permanent contacts with France lead me to write articles, participate in debates, but I would like to do even more.
It seems to me that there is also an issue that should concern us: the Swedish legislation LSS enables us, the disabled people, to have an active life in Sweden. Where I live, I see that the overwhelming part of the disabled population remains at home, watching TV… It is only I who am going to concerts and cultural activities, restaurants, etc. Ice hockey is very popular here, this is the only place where one can see wheelchair users occupied almost only by men. It’s quite distressing I think! How does one request access everywhere when what is already available is not used?
The accessibility of cities is still a huge problem even in Sweden. For many years there was a march in the month of June to protest and demand that action would finally be taken for an anti-discrimination legislation against inaccessibility. That law has come but is quite toothless. Since 2 or 3 years there is nothing else happening to improve accessibility. We are still in the same situation… This is unacceptable!
Disabled people with extensive experience of disability must participate in education. Children and adolescents in the same situation must get good education. The adults surrounding these children should meet us with experience, need to understand the struggle we have carried out and the will we have to live included in society. This is essential for their future. They need to know their rights and to become strong, proud and visible as we have become!
I want to spend the strength I have left to live these last few years to fight more and more effectively for the future of the new generation, to make it easier. I want to do this part but alas I have not found the frame to use…”