For the second consecutive year, the European Independent Living day was celebrated on May 5th with many exciting events in the name of Independent Living (IL) across Europe. We raised our voices through activities, making loud and clear messages and raising awareness on Independent Living.
Thank you, member organizations, IL activists and IL supporters, who worked hard organizing events and collaborated during the campaign. We, as a movement, achieved the ENIL goal to host more events than last year, but most of all to have a stronger voice.
Jamie Bolling, the ENIL Executive Director finds that “the European Day is achieving that which was hoped. The movement is raising awareness of IL. Unfortunately celebrating is not easy in all countries as cuts and deteriorating situations for disabled people leave us angry and not in a celebrating mood but in one of protest. All but 3 EU countries have ratified the UN CRPD and the situation for disabled people is then not to go backwards! Events were organized in 22 different countries, with the movement claiming our rights and raising awareness on Independent Living. If we compare the level of participation with the data from last year, the trend is upwards. More events took place and more people joined the events. Eight more countries were involved in the Independent Living day. Among the new countries were Lithuania, San Marino, Latvia, Bosnia, Portugal and Hungary.”
Regarding awareness strategy, it is worth highlighting the active participation via social media during the whole campaign. Posting started weeks before, continued the day before and on the day itself. Photos, videos and other posts mainly on Facebook but also in Twitter, made it possible to connect events in Europe and to voice the need for Independent Living.
Below are some of the events that took place.
In Lithuania a video was shared, showing parts of the exhibition ‘Illusion and Identity’ about life in social care homes. Discussions about the deinstitutionalisation process are still taking place in 10 Lithuanian towns. Lithuanian members and supporters also used the chance to spread the translated ENIL Myth Buster on Independent Living.
Sweden’s Independent Living activists stood in front of the Parliament, raising hands with red gloves with the message change paragraph nine of the assistance legislation. With hands raised the fists formed the shape of the number 9. With this event, the Swedish IL members and supporters were demanding a change in the Swedish Personal Assistance legislation as the legislation is no longer what is was. People are losing assistance and becoming prisoners in their own homes.
Latvia organized a photo exhibition to raise awareness on Independent Living and its importance for disabled people’s lives, highlighting the right for equality.
In Norway ULOBA showed a short film about freedom and Independent Living which was one of the films at the Eurodok film festival this spring. In addition, a Facebook campaign about freedom was launched. The opportunity to join in on the event through an online web meeting allowed those who could not attend the live event the possibility to take part.
“Meet a (disabled) stranger” is the name of the campaign organized in Belgium. A tent was placed in a public place and people were invited to enter and have a chat with a CIL Belgium member who lives in the community. This person talked about his/her life, education, job, family life and the importance of Independent Living for full participation. The purpose was to promote Independent Living and to eliminate stigmatization of disabled people. The campaign included a press release and a press conference with people participating via social media.
In Greece “i-living – Independent Living Organisation of Greece” asked people in seven cities to write on a board what was the first word or phrase that came to mind when they first heard the term “Independent Living”. Afterwards Independent Living was explained. Information leaflets were handed out. A video was created with the purpose to depict the Greek reality and the ignorance about Independent Living philosophy and to show that Independent Living is what every human seeks regardless of disability or not. The National Confederation of Disabled People in Greece also joined the Independent Living day celebration by publishing a press release on Independent Living.
The French Association Gré à Gré organised a webinar about Independent Living for French speakers a few days before the actual day, but still an event to mark the IL European day.
CIL Serbia marked the Independent Living day in 10 cities (Sombor, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Jagodina, Smederevo, Bor, Kragujevac, Cacak, Nis and Leskovac). The translation of the ENIL Myth Busters on Independent Living was published, with examples from Serbia. Each CIL branch organized different events such as street actions, meeting with local authorities, round tables and gatherings. All the events were followed by the local media.
In Armenia there were two events: Unison NGO held a street flash-mob – an action against occupying the parking spaces for disabled people by non-disabled drivers. Participants were touring around the central streets of Yerevan to find out whether the parking spaces marked with a wheelchair sign were free or occupied. In the case of them being occupied by drivers who were not eligible, participants placed a sticker with a short text on those cars. “Independent Living and Integration” was the video contest organised by the the Skarp NGO and the Union of Legal Entities “National Disability Advocacy Coalition”. Disabled and non-disabled people sent one minute videos on how they saw Independent Living in hope to win the contest. On May 5th the winners were announced.
Several events took place in Italy: A conference was organized in Roma by the Independent living Agency in Roma and Fish Lazio to address the issue of personal assistance, home care and the contrast of institutionalization. A conference also took place in Udine. In many cities around Italy events such as flash mobs with the distribution of informational material, video-interviews of citizens about Independent Living and provocative acts were organized. There were two initiatives organized by the “Comitato lombardo per la vita indipendente delle persone con disabilità”. A video was released with interviews with three local administrators, which allowed for better understanding the reality of disabled people and what needs to be changed for Independent Living.
Slovenia’s campaign “Member of Parliament, a Personal Assistant” which is still ongoing invited all MEPs to spend part of the day working as a personal assistant, so that they could better understand the importance of personal assistance in everyday lives of disabled people. Multisectoral workshops on the square of Slovenia’s capital were used to distribute promotional materials and to answer questions regarding Independent Living and Personal Assistance. Klaudija Poropat’s photo exhibition entitled “Personal Assistance is our Existence” was shown on the square. In addition, a press conference was released.
In United Kingdom, as an ENIL member and supporter, DPAC chose to have an online protest to remind voters and the main political parties of the fundamental importance of the independent living fund through a #saveilf protest two days prior to the general elections. In addition they supported Occupy in their occupation of Parliament Square throughout the week of the election with protest and speakers for Occupy Democracy.
Portugal conducted a public awareness initiative through a school called “Towards a Generation”.
Bosnia IL organised a promotion of a book that contains stories of disabled women and girls. The stories were collected during the implementation of a short project that aimed to increase self-esteem and confidence of girls and women in the Tuzla region. The book also aims to motivate other women and girls to become involved in activities of DPOS as well as with society at a whole.
Two events happened in Cyprus: The ESFC organized for the whole of May an information campaign about the rights of disabled people taking place at the High Schools of Lemesos. It was on the UN Convention and emphasized article 19 and Independent Living. The Cyprus Paraplegics Association carried out the following activities: A press conference on the 5th of May was held emphasising the importance of Independent Living as prescribed by the respect to human rights and article 19 of the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A press release of the conference was published. In addition, a representative of their organization talked live on radio and TV on 5th of May regarding Independent Living. On the 10th of May disabled people were invited to spend time out of home and engage in activities, so that people could see that with the necessary support disabled people are able to participate on an equal basis.
In San Marino an article was published in media and in some websites on employment of disabled people.
In the Netherlands, Amsterdam, a wheelchair basketball tournament was organised, inviting non-wheelchair users to participate in this event in a wheelchair.
In Germany the European Protest Day for Equal Rights was celebrated as part as the Independent Living day, with about 700 activities going on. The main activities were for a better law on the inclusion of disabled people taking place with a demonstration from the office of the Chancellor to the Brandenburg gate, in Stuttgart with a rally and in Munich with several activities happening on the Marienplatz. “For a good law for the participation of disabled people” was the slogan used for the campaign. In Berlin they had about 1.500 people gathering in front of the Brandenburger Gate.
The Irish Donegal CIL published a video to mark the day portraying IL.
In Spain a meeting between friends from Madrid was organised to chat and discuss issues on Independent Living.
ENIL again thanks all who made the day a success. Together we make our voices heard. Together we can be proud. Together we are strong. Together we are visible! Until next year!
Visit the following links for photos and videos:
ENIL press release: www.enil.eu/news/celebrating-5th-may-the-european-day-for-independent-living
France: webinar powerpoint presentation
Armenia: winners of the video contest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoR2686dO-c&list=PLXPVfKbMIRHm3V9ZFjLnkmC9A77UTlXob&index=7
other video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4IQt18xoQA
PROTAGONISTI NOI – 5 maggio 2015
Photo: 5th May collage