To celebrate the International Day of persons with disabilities the European Commission, in cooperation with the European Disability Forum (EDF), organized a conference under the theme “2015: Growing Together In a Barrier-Free Europe” on 7th and 8th December in Brussels.
Among the invited speakers was Zara Todd – currently the chair of the ENIL Youth Network board. She made her presentation not only interesting for the audience, but also truly accessible and understandable. This was indicated by the immediate reaction of those in the conference hall as well as all followers on the social media. Zara explained in simple terms, and illustrating her words with practical examples, the difference between an integrated society where disabled people are supposed to fit in regular systems without much support and an inclusive society where disabled people and society look together for the best way to overcome obstacles to inclusion. Both Zara and the second ENIL speaker Kamil Goungor made clear however that there is still a lot of work to be done as young disabled people growing up in Europe still need to be bold and committed to overcome the barriers they face. Zara called upon young disabled people to be daring and to participate in society and on society to reach out and talk to disabled people.
You can watch a video with Zara’s speech at this link. *
The conference included three panel discussions where disabled people could share their experience in growing up with a disability and exchange views with EU policy makers and representatives from DPOs and NGOs. The subject of the first panel discussion was “Growing up with a disability in the EU”. The title of the second panel was “The situation of children and youth with disabilities in Europe.” The third panel focused on inclusive education and integration in the society and economy. Also invited to the conference from ENIL were Jamie Bolling (ENIL’s executive director), Nadia Hadad and Stelios Kympouropoulos (ENIL board members), Peter Lambreghts (ENIL senior officer), Frank Sioen and Marco Carnesecchi (rom the ENIL’s office in Brussels) and Dilyana Deneva (ENIL Youth Network coordinator).
Kamil was a panellist in the first panel discussion. He explained the Independent Living philosophy and spoke about his experiences as an intern for both ENIL and “Onafhankelijk Leven”. Kamil further explained the EVS program and emphasised the importance of the Personal Assistance funding that is included in the program. Kamil encouraged disabled people to take chances and be more visible. He concluded by saying that with the right assistance everything is possible for disabled people.
You can watch a video with Kamil’s speech at this link. *
Other topics that came up during the panel discussions included deinstitutionalization, inclusive education, the situation of hard-of-hearing and deaf youth and policy participation of disabled youth.
Access City award 2016
During the conference the winner of the Access City award 2016 was announced. The five shortlisted cities were Kaposvar (Hungary), Milan (Italy), Toulouse (France), Vaasa (Finland) and Wiesbaden (Germany).
Milan won the award. Deputy mayor Pierfrancesco Majorino was present to accept the certificate and emphasised in his speech that the award will not be used as an excuse to slow down the town’s pace in terms of getting accessible, but that Milan will continue to be a front runner on the issue in the future. Wiesbaden and Toulouse were also represented on the podium. Kaposvar received a special mention for its commitment to accessibility. There was also a special mention for Vaasa in recognition of the city’s work on accessible employment. Finally, Toulouse received a special mention for the use of smart technology to make the city accessible.
The conference got a lot of coverage on Facebook and twitter. The hashtags for the event were #EUDisability, #EUAccessCity and #EDPD2015. Here are some of the posts by individuals and organisations:
“Milan, Italy is the winner of the EU Access City Award 2016!”
“Milan has made a commitment to accessibility above and beyond what is required by law. Its building standards not only support accessibility and usability but they also promote Universal Design standards. There is a high level of accessibility across most means of transportation with two of the city’s four metro lines fully compliant for disabled people.
Milan is rewarded for the impressive efforts it has made in the past as well as its ambitious plans for the future. Find out more about this year’s finalists: bit.ly/1M0D1ch #EUAccessCity “ – Social Europe
“Idas dagbok / Ida’s Diary, a documentary about a young woman’s struggles with mental health problems, was presented today @#EDPD2015 and provided insight into this first-hand account of life as a person with psychosocial disabilities.” – Mental Health Europe
*The videos in this article have been downloaded from the European Commission’s website.