Danijela Jovanović was born in 1968 in Belgrade. She spent her childhood living in several foster homes and when she was eleven years old, in May 1979, she was placed in an Institution for children and youth with intellectual disabilities in the town of Sremčica.
In early 2004, thanks to the Association for Promoting Inclusion Serbia, which ran a project called “Supported living for people with intellectual disabilities,” Danijela was able to achieve her long time wish to live in the community. By living in the community she was able to make new friends, to experience things happening in the city, to acquire most of the everyday life skills and to continue practising sports more actively.
She has won many medals in swimming and athletics. In the Spring of 2007, Danijela started mountain climbing. From 2007 to 2009 she trained hard and with the help of her coach she was able to climb many mountain peaks in Serbia and, after an additional two years of training, the highest mountain in Europe – Mount Elbrus in Russia. Danijela is the first woman with disability to have achieved this. At the beginning of 2009, she tried to reach the highest mountain in the Americas – Aconcagua, where due to poor weather conditions her expedition had to give up just 200 meters from the top.
Since 2010, Danijela has been actively involved in para-cycling. She has been training regularly with the support of the Alliance for Sport and Recreation of the Disabled People of Belgrade (SSRIB) and the Cycling Federation of Serbia, and she is preparing intensively for future competitions. In addition to all her sporting activities, since 2006, Danijela has been working in retail, where she is praised as a valuable and responsible staff member. In 2009, Danijela was elected as the President of the Self advocacy group within the Association for Promoting Inclusion Serbia.
Danijela lives with her partner in supported living (i.e. a regular apartment) in central Belgrade.
What is your personal experience of disability?
The only thing that bothers me with my disability is that they have taken away some of my [legal] capacity, so I can’t get a full-time job and a proper salary.
How did you discover the Independent Living movement?
While I was living in the Institution called Sremčica a psychologist called me and asked me if I wanted to live in a supported living service. After that, people came from an organization that offered to some of the residents in the Institution to begin a life in the community. My parents were also happy when they heard about this possibility.
Is there an area of Independent Living that you are especially interested in?
I’m interested in many things, I am currently doing cycling and I started scuba diving.
Who has influenced you the most, and how?
I always discuss the things I wanted to achieve with my support team from the Association for Promoting Inclusion Serbia. They have always provided me with the support and helped me find a way to fulfill my wishes.
What personal achievement are you most proud of?
I am proud of all my accomplishments: the sports, work, my parents, and the fact that I have good people around me from the Association for Promoting Inclusion Serbia. Also, I am particularly proud to be the President of a self-advocacy group where I can share the problems I face and help others to realize their rights.
Do you have a favorite saying or proverb?
Everything will be fine, as long as I am healthy! (In Serbian: Samo da sam ziva i zdrava!)
What motivates you to get up in the morning?
When I get up I have my sports practice waiting for me and that makes me happy.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love to cook lunch, tidy up around the house, and go out with my boyfriend to the city centre, or on a trip with my friends.
Who would be your ideal dinner guests?
I would invite my entire support team for dinner.
What advice would you give to young adults with a disability?
To play sports, to drink less and smoke less because it is not good for their health, and to be active, happy and surrounded with friends.