The final events of the Independent Living Network (ILNET) project took place in December 2015 – January 2016. The project, implemented by ENIL in partnership with RUSIHAK Turkey and CIL-Sofia, aimed to promote Independent Living in Turkey and to ensure that disabled people in Turkey are better informed and able to advocate for Independent Living.
During the project a number of events (study visits, summer school) were organised to facilitate the exchange of experience and knowledge between disabled people from Turkey and other European countries with the aim and to encourage them to start advocacy on the implementation of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The final project events (concluding conference in Ankara and a meeting with the European Commission representatives) sought to support the advocacy of disabled people in Turkey by addressing the relevant Turkish authorities and the European Commission and outlining the main challenges for the implementation of Article 19 in Turkey and the way forward.
The key challenges to Independent Living, identified during the project, include:
• Individualised and medicalised understanding of disability;
• Lack of understanding of the CRPD principles among disabled people, non-governmental organisations and policy-makers;
• Legal provisions violating the rights of disabled people and creating obstacles to their full inclusion (e.g. guardianship);
• Prevalence of traditional institutional care;
• Limited range and access to services in the community;
• Lack of accessible mainstream services;
• The new services for disabled people that are being developed and promoted as ‘community-based’ are based on a medical model of disability and do not provide users with choice and control
Some of the actions to address these challenges, proposed by the Draft Roadmap for the implementation of Article 19 and developed within the framework of the ILNET project, include:
– Develop a strategy/action plan for reforms towards the transition from institutional care to a system supporting community living of disabled people;
– Ensure that the strategy and all relevant policies and measures are based on the CRPD principles, including the freedom to make one’s own choices, full and effective participation in the community, respect for difference, equality of opportunity and accessibility (CRPD, Article 3);
– Ensure that disabled people are involved in the development of the strategy/action plan and in the development, implementation and evaluation of all relevant policies and measures, including in the area of education, employment, social services, health, transportation, housing and leisure;
– Adopt measures in the following key areas: 1) developing a range of community-based support services for disabled people; 2) making mainstream services accessible and 3) closing large-scale residential institutions;
o developing a range of community-based support services for disabled people: includes residential and non-residential services, such as personal assistance, advocacy, and peer support;
o making mainstream services accessible: includes physical accessibility, accessibility of the information provided, support available within the system (e.g. resource centres or teaching assistants in schools), staff attitudes and skills;
o closing residential institutions and supporting individuals and families during transition to community living: as part of an overall strategy to support community living. The transition of institutionalised disabled people to life in the community should be based on individual plans developed with the disabled person and taking into account their needs and preferences.
– Ensure that the newly developed services in the community are person-centred (tailored to the individual needs and preferences), user-led (disabled people are actively involved in the design, delivery and evaluation of services) and provide disabled people with choice and control over the support they receive and how it is organised.
– Review and amend existing legislation to remove the barriers to disabled people’s participation in the community and to ensure full compliance with the CRPD. Some of the key issues include: abolishing guardianship and introducing supported decision-making system, introducing changes in the legislation concerning involuntary hospitalisation and treatment, voting, marriage, etc.)
– Carry out activities to raise awareness among disabled people, policy-makers and the general public of the human rights of disabled people.
ILNET is now officially over but the work to promote Independent Living in Turkey continues. Many of the participants in the project shared that they felt empowered and motivated to continue this work. As one of them said: “I feel hopeful when I think of our struggle in Turkey because only after the struggle we could attain an independent life”.
For more information, you can visit the ILNET webpage.