The 3rd Parliament of persons with disabilities was a success! About 500 people attended including a number of Members of the European Parliament. Stories of the effects of the economic crisis were conveyed and showed how as a result of the crisis there were breeches against the rights of people with disabilities in member states. The goal is to raise awareness that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is for the betterment of our societies and the strengthening of our democracies.
ENIL was well represented through Peter Lambreghts from the ENIL Board and Western Regional Coordinator, Jamie Bolling, the Executive Director and John Evans, one of the ENIL old timers and a survivor of institutions. They each spoke at one of the plenary session with John Evans speaking at the first plenary session “The UN Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities and it’s implementation in the context of the economic crisis”. Peter Lambreghts then spoke about the impact of the crisis on the lives of people with disabilities and called on everyone present in the European Parliament to support the ENIL resolution which urges member states to stop planned cuts and austerity measures in the second plenary session, “Strategies for a way out of the crisis”. In the third plenary session , “Free movement and citizenship of persons with disabilities- tackling the barriers” , Jamie Bolling spoke of the importance of the Independent Living definitions. Our message was loud and clear – Free Our People Now-Close the Institutions! Contribute to the work against austerity – support the ENIL proposal for a resolution by the European Parliament against cuts to Personal Assistance, Community Based Services and Independent Living support! Make sure the implementation of the UN CRPD is done according to Independent Living ideology and this through the recognition of what Independent Living really is. Respect and endorse the Independent Living definitions!
© Photo curtesy of Lukasz Michalak Photography
John Evans Speech
European Parliament of Disabled People Statement (ENIL)
Right Now as we privileged disabled people sit here debating important issues of the European Parliament. 1.2 million of our fellow disabled brothers and sisters are imprisoned, isolated and forgotten in institutions throughout Europe. They are not free like us to participate in whatever activities they want or even choose what to wear, what to eat and drink and when to get up and go to bed most days of their lives.
Most of the EU governments have blatantly ignored and denied implementing the UN CRPD and in particular Article 19 which begs governments to enable and allow their disabled citizens to be free of institutions. They are deprived of the choice of choosing where to live, who to support them to live in the community. This situation has been made worse by the austerity measures many countries are taking which are decreasing the funding in independent living and other community-based services. This is a blatant violation of the UN CRPD.
We call upon the EU Parliament and institutions to address this issue immediately and call upon EU Member States to put into action their responsibility in implementing UN CRPD to protect and improve the rights of these estranged disabled people. FREE OUR PEOPLE NOW.
ENIL. December 2012.
Jamie Bolling Speech
Thank you chair.
Ladies, Gentlemen, MEPs and Delegates –
I am Jamie Bolling the Director of European Network on Independent Living.
Barriers are many – direct and indirect. We all know them only too well! Lack of accessibility, services, PA schemes, the cuts and misuse of the Structural Funds are only some.
With ENIL my visits to institutions have had me meet people who are locked in institutions against their will. These people are crying, screaming they want out. But they are not listened to. Some own their own homes, which are not accessible. Instead of receiving assistance to make the homes accessible these people have been locked in for life – lives in prison when not having done anything wrong! This is a breach of human rights!
These countries even say they are implementing Independent Living but do not mean what we mean! ENIL has adopted Independent Living definitions and are asking the EU Commission, EU Parliament and the EU Institutions to endorse these definitions so when an evaluation of the implementation of the Convention is done it will be done from the right perspective. You may also endorse the definitions on the ENIL website from the beginning of next year. We ask that the definitions be added to today’s protocol.
We speak of participation yet some young Independent Living members have proven there are lacks in the system. Lacks blocking them from further studies! One young lawyer from Bulgaria has not been able to fulfill his scholarship in Vienna as he had no Personal Assistant. Another Irish girl was accepted for a PHD in Iceland but there was no funding for her Personal Assistant and no portability of the service. So she had to abandon the PHD.
Solutions – strategies
There is the adoption of the EU Accessibility Act
Conditionality of accessibility in all EU funded activity.
Research projects such as the FP7 funding should have conditions where all activity should take place in accessible locations so I would not be pointed out as the culprit making people stay in more expensive hotels, or being excluded when others stay in one hotel and I in another.
ENIL calls upon the EU Parliament and the EU institutions to adopt the EU Accessibility Act, EDF resolution and ENIL resolution against the cuts. And to endorse the ENIL definitions on Independent Living.
To finish – Bring the Discrimination Directive from the draw. Only when people/countries have to pay for their crimes will they refrain from committing the ACT.
To continue this great dialogue – come to the ENIL Strasbourg Freedom Drive in September this year!
Peter Lambreghts Speech
Ladies, Gentlemen, MEPs and Delegates
I am Peter Lambreghts, ENIL Board member and Western Region Coordinator.
As a grassroots organization we have been hearing alarming messages from our members throughout Europe since the very beginning of the crisis. Everything we fought for in past decades is being wiped away by cuts and austerity measures. People with disabilities are being hit disproportionally and in these times the UN CRPD should be implemented. Recent research reports bring evidence that confirms this and states that the worst effects on our human rights is still to come.
So what can we do? As civil society, as INGOs, as people with disabilities to defend our rights?
We must ring the alarm bell and keep on bringing attention to this. That is exactly what ENIL, EDF and others have been doing.
We need to explain the devastating effect of what is happening, to sensitize policy makers and public opinion. Cutting and downsizing Personal Assistance and Community Based Services is counter effective. It pushes people and families into dependency, unemployment and it leads to more social exclusion and (far more expensive) institutions. We need to reallocate and to invest, not to take steps backward.
Can we do more? We can try to do more. That is why ENIL launched a Proposal for a Resolution of the European Parliament on the effect of cuts in public spending on persons with disabilities in the European Union
Basically this resolution proposal urges the member states to stop planned cuts and austerity measures that hit the rights and life of people with disabilities and reverse those already implemented.
To avoid confusion let me stress that the ENIL resolution proposal is not only made for sensitizing, but the objective is to really initiate new EU legislation. In this way it differs from the EDF document presented today, which of course has our full support, which is called a ‘resolution’ as well. We want the ENIL resolution to be voted and adopted by the European Parliament. We realize this is a high goal for an organization like ENIL, but we have to do what we can to defend our right on Independent Living.
Our initiative has broad support from other NGOs. We sought and found cooperation from MEPs who support us. We took the lead in an ad hoc working group against the cuts, where we have fruitful collaboration with other organizations. We made an action plan and a strategy to realize our objective. Currently we work on bringing this matter onto the agenda of the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. We want the committee to agree on an Oral question in the European Parliament on this issue to initiate the process leading to voting and adopting our proposed resolution.
I like to use this opportunity to ask support from everybody here in this European Parliament of people with disabilities… MEPs, DPOs, and other stakeholders to support us and help us lobby. You can stay fully informed on www.enil.eu. We invite you to join our campaign and help us convincing MEPs from your own country and region.
I ask the EDF to include my contribution in the minutes/report of this important day.
Let us hope that next year on the international day of people with disabilities we can say that we were successful in realizing a resolution like this. That we were able to construct a new tool for us, disability rights activists, another weapon we can use to counter the effects of the crisis.
We want rights, no charity!