My name is Javier Romañach Cabrero, I’m a 47 year old computer scientist and social activist. I was born in Spain, in Manresa, a small town not far from Barcelona, but I’ve lived in Madrid most of my life. I’m single and live in an apartment on my own, where I am assisted by personal assistants, but my parents are my neighbours and I have a close relationship with them.
What is your personal experience of disability?
I started to be discriminated against on the grounds of my functional diversity when I acquired quadriplegia as a result of a motorcycle accident at the age of 28 in 1991. Since then I have learned to live with my diversity, and I lead a very active life, despite society’s constant discrimination. For some years I collaborated with official NGOs in accessible technology but I left the official trends and started, with some friends, the FVI (Foro de Vida Independiente, Independent Living Forum), a new way to do social activism with no budget, no board and no money, just communicating with people by Internet.
How did you discover the Independent Living movement?
It was my friend Manuel Lobato, co-founder of the FVI who talked to me about Independent Living for some years before I got attracted to it. I always thought it was “too American” for a Latin country, and argued that some transposition and adaptation of the ideas were needed in order to develop them in Spain. That’s one of the reasons why we started a place, the FVI, where reflection was always prior to action.
Is there an area of Independent Living that you are especially interested in?
I am mostly interested in model theory and political action. That’s why we have extended the Independent Living or social model to the Diversity Model, a much more powerful theoretical model to face challenges like the ones we find in bioethics. Changing words, that is, using “functional diversity”, instead of “dis-ability”, is just the surface of a very powerful model that rejects valuing human lives in terms of ability. Concerning political action, we have been able to establish direct payments for personal assistance as a right in Spain, but it is still an insufficient right, and there is still plenty of political action to be taken in order to fulfill our demands.
Who has influenced you the most, and how?
Manuel Lobato is the person who most influenced my action, as he “dragged” me into his ideas and proposed countless brave actions that established the IL movement in Spain. He was always very keen on international collaboration and on promoting our relations with ENIL.
What personal achievement are you most proud of?
None. There’s still discrimination and inequality of opportunities in my country. If we ever erase that, I will be proud to be one of the many who fought to achieve it.
Do you have a favourite saying or proverb?
Saying is easy. Doing is hard.
What motivates you to get up in the morning?
Enjoying life and learning new things.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Going out with friends to chat, drink and eat, attending music concerts, movies, travelling and writing.
If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, who would be your ideal guests?
My best friends.
What advice would you give to young adults with a disability?
Be skeptical. Fight hard. There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s the world and society that are wrong.