ENIL interviews Ottmar Miles- Paul, from the German Council of Centers for Self-Determined Living ( ISL) about the Disability Cuts Campaign and what action will be taken in Germany on the 5th May 2013 to highlight the cutbacks there.
We know that 5th of May has been a Campaigning day in Germany for years, why is this?
In 1992, the German Council of Centers for Self-Determined Living (ISL) started together with the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) the first Europe-Wide Protest Day for Equal Rights. We coordinated that protest day for several years in the 1990’s in Germany and on an international level. While we weren`t able to keep up with the international coordination, we were able to keep the activities in Germany going on a broader basis. Equal rights laws and other successes gave us the right push, so that up till today on the May 5th and the days around that date, hundreds of activities for equal rights, self-determination and inclusion are happening in Germany.
Why are you joining forces with ENIL on this day?
Together we can be stronger. Since many activities in the field of disability have become an issue on the EU level it is important that we work together across boarders and for a self-determined life everywhere in Europe. It is important to make strong statements for the right to live in the community and the assistance we need for that and to fight against social cuts. ENIL is very important because disabled people themselves speak up for their rights rather than service providers or politicians.
Tell me an example of the impact of the cuts in Germany
Over the last years it has become harder for disabled people in Germany to get the assistance they need because of the financial pressure and the reduction of the government-deficit. We have had hardly any progress for better laws for inclusion in Germany so that still many disabled people have to live in institutions, work in sheltered workshops or have to go to special schools. But in Germany our focus for the activities around May 5th is to reform the laws that make disabled people, who need personal assistance, poor. If you need funding for personal assistance in Germany, you are not allowed to save more than 2.600Euro. Otherwise you don’t get the funding for the assistance. This means that disabled people with a higher need of personal assistance and their partners are kept live-long poor.
What is happening in relation to disability at a national level in Germany?
In Germany, we currently have the chance to get a federal law for personal assistance and participation. We hope that this law will support the inclusion of disabled people and that we get rid of the many discriminating rules which focus the support for disabled people on institutions.
Why do you think it is important to have a European Independent Living Day?
We need to show that disabled people everywhere in Europe will fight for their rights and the implementation of the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And we have to show that a self-determined life of disabled people with the support they need, is possible. We have to get rid of the many segregating institutions and need policies for living and working in the middle of the community in an inclusive way.
Tell me about the events Germany is holding
This year we will have a big demonstration on May 5th in Germany for a law for personal assistance and participation with a big happening at the Brandenburg gate in the heart of Berlin. In many cities disabled people and their organisations and others will in addition organise hundreds of events to raise awareness about the situation of disabled people. One of the big funding organisations will support the events of the protest day with money and public relations.
How can people become involved in these events?
Organisations can organise their own events and apply for money from the Action Mensch, an organisation which runs a lottery and supports many initiatives for disabled people. People can join other activities, which are happening like the demonstration in Berlin on May 5th or on the local level. Therefore we have an activity finder in the internet. For more information see: http://www.aktion-mensch.de/inklusion/aktionstag/5-mai-2014.php
How do you think these events can help each country?
If we disabled people don’t get involved to fight for our rights, why should others and if they do, will it be in our spirit? Therefore we have to get involved in the activities and the politics in our country to make sure that disabled people get the right and support to live in the community rather than in special institutions and get the assistance they need for that. Therefore I am convinced that those activities will help in each country if we are consistent and have good strategies. And we need good examples from other countries to convince our governments that they will do the same.
Would you encourage other countries to do the same thing? Why?
Definitely. It is very important that we raise our own voices, make them heard to the politicians, in the administration and in the press. We as disabled people know best, what we need and what is necessary for a self-determined live. So there is simply no alternative to getting up and making strong statements for our human rights even though it sometimes is a long way to go.
If you would like to get involved with any of the actions taking place in Germany please contact:
German Council of Centers for Self-Determined Living (ISL)
For more information on the cuts taking place in Germany please visit www.wakeupcall.eu
We hope you join in our action on the 5th May!