Raluca Popescu is 26 years old and lives in Timisoara, Romania. She has studied Applied Modern Languages at West University Timisoara. She is a human rights activist and works as a public relations assistant at Ceva de Spus – a group of self-advocates, persons with intellectual and physical disabilities. In June this year, Raluca has been elected as a local councillor in her home town Timisoara – a great chance to get involved in decision making processes and contribute to achieving independent living for disabled people in Romania.
- How do you understand “Independent Living”?
For me, Independent Living means to be able to make decisions, to have control over your life, to have the right support, to have ACCESS everywhere you would like to go, living and enjoying life just as anyone else.
- Tell us about your new position. What are your plans in your new role?
On 5th June 2016, I was elected to be a local councillor in Timisoara. I was overwhelmed to see the support from the community, but I am also fully aware that I have a great responsibility in the coming years. From my new position, I want to be the voice of people with disabilities and to fight for our rights in the local council. Accessibility of the city will be an important objective for me in the next 4 years.
- What opportunities for the disabled community you think this opens?
Having a person with disabilities as a local councillor is a precedent for Timisoara. There haven’t been any disabled people so far involved in politics in the entire history of the city. Through my position, people with disabilities will have the opportunity to have someone who can relate to their problems, to understand and listen to them, to represent and fight for them on a higher level. Hopefully this will open new doors.
- How did you reach the position you have today? What kind of support did you receive?
I reached my position by making concrete proposals to address the issues of people with disabilities, which I want to represent, and I was elected on that platform.
- What are the main problems disabled people in Romania face?
There are lots of problems in Romania at this moment. The lack of accessibility, the lack of community-based services – with people still living segregated in residential institutions – misconceptions towards people with disabilities, and others.
- Is the Independent Living philosophy familiar enough for disabled people and the general public in Romania?
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to do about understanding and accepting the philosophy of Independent Living. But hopefully my new position is a promising new beginning in this direction.
Photo: Raluca Popescu