It is with great sadness that we learn today of the death of Bente Skansgard, former President of the European Network on Independent Living and founder of ULOBA.
Bente was the Mother of Uloba and of personal assistance in Norway. She was a great and admired leader. She was well thought of for her wit, tolerance, diplomacy and her sharp awareness that disabled people are to able to access the same rights as others. She fought since she was young to better the situation of disabled people and succeeded in bringing about personal assistance in Norway. Her engagement though was not limited to Norway or even Europe with her activities spreading throughout the world.
Even through the long period of illness that took her life Bente was willing and working. She was ready to talk and to advise sharing the wisdom she had gained. Bente continued contact on a regular basis with many of us from different parts of Europe, keeping us in touch and keeping our spirits up. Her spirit was strong and will remain strong even now if it not physically with us.
Bente Skansgård was dependent on her wheelchair and needed practical assistance from others since she broke her neck in a diving accident when she was 13 years old. For many years her parents had to assist her, as there was no other alternative than an institution for a young girl in the beginning of her adult life. Bente Skansgård did not let her disability limit her from going on to study sociology at the University of Oslo, and working at the research institute, now called SINTEF Building and Infrastructure. But this was not to be her main life activity.
She won a scholarship to study the Independent Living Movement in the United States and when she returned to Norway this led to a Norwegian project on personal assistance. Bente and fellow activists started ULOBA, a cooperative that grew from 5 to 1000 disabled owners, and employs 6000 personal assistants. All in all more than 3000 disabled people in Norway now live their lives in freedom through personal assistance as an alternative to home care and institutions, thanks to ULOBA and to Bente.
Bente contributed strongly to the international Independent Living movement. She played an important role in the founding of ENIL. Bente was one of the presidents of ENIL and until today a member of the ENIL advisory group. She also worked closely with Adolf Ratzka and the Independent Living Institute, where she served as a board member for many years.
All Uloba members and employees mourn their loss as we too in ENIL do. We have lost one of our leading stars. We all know how much Bente has meant to disabled people who can now live their lives independently and in freedom, thanks to her efforts. ENIL will miss her greatly as one of our most respected and honored leaders. We will always remember and will be forever indebted for all Bente has done to advance the Independent Living movement and improve the lives of many disabled people across Europe.
ENIL sends warmest thoughts to Bente’s husband Björn and to her parents, family and closest friends. The funeral will be held in the Kampen church in Oslo at 10.30 on Friday November 22. The burial procession will commerce thereafter, and arrive at the burial site Gamlebyen gravlund at noon (12.00). Both the funeral and the following memorial gathering at Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel are open for all those who want to attend.
Please click here to read more about Bente Skansgards life.