Gisèle Caumont, who is French, but nowadays is living in Mora in the north of Sweden, has answered 10 questions:
What is your personal experience of disability?
I have cerebral palsy since birth. I am French, born in Paris just before the war began. My father was a prisoner i Germany and my mother was alone with me and my brother without money and without any help. Then my father came back. I did not recognize him…
It was a difficult period. There was no special care to get. My parents paid teachers who came to us, because no school accepted me.I started school when I was 11 years. I fought hard all the time to study and live an active life. At home, we had no money but a great zest for life and joy of living. My parents fought a lot and insisted that I fought myself.
I studied to speech therapist in college and got a job with ease. We were a small group of students in wheelchair, who created a small but very committed union whose objective was that people with disabilities should have the sameright to study and work that everyone in the community. We wanted to decide for ourselves in our lives.
How did you discover the Independent Living movement?
It was in Sweden in the late eighties. I studied at university and had home service, which absolutely didn’t work! It was hell. In one week 20 different people could come to me. I became depressed. Then a friend told me about the Swedish assistance cooperative GIL. I got great support and help from Rolf Bergfors and discovered Independet Living.
Is there an area of Independent Living that you are especially interested in?
In France, it is very difficult to live when you need personal assistance.
The situation is bad: only few assistance hours; homes that often are not adapted. I believe that Independent Living must be disseminated throughout the whole of Europe.
Sweden is a model, a dream for many in Europe. But we dare not demand as much! When I participated in Freedom Drive in Strasbourg in 2009 I was impressed and I would like to be more active in the EU collaboration.
Who has influenced you the most, and how?
My mom with her great desire for me to receive education and become strong in life. She wanted me to discover the world and dare to experience different situations. Dad and she opened doors for me: to art, music, nature and more.
Our home was always full of children and adolescents. There was a smell of hot chocolate and pancakes…
What personal achievement are you most proud of?
I’m happy because I dared to move from France to Sweden when I retired. It is not easy to leave family and friends and build a new life in another country. But I loved Sweden and knew Swedish, Swedish traditions and culture. I had studied in Sweden and knew I could get a really good life with personal assistance and pursue new opportunities and less difficulty.
Do you have a favourite saying or proverb?
One must dare to win.
What motivates you to get up in the morning?
Having fun during the day and DECIDE FOR MYSELF.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Being retired is great! I sing in a choir, is in town, in nature, drawing and painting in oils and watercolors, is a member of the church board, etc.
Who would be your ideal dinner guests?
My friends from France.
What advice would you give to young adults with a disability?
Learn as much as possible! Get the best education!
Be active: Personal assistance provides opportunities for everyone to be involved in the community, not to stay at home watching television all day! Go out, chill out! Get involved as much as you can in the questions that interest you! And above all: Dare to live as you are!