Protester with poster that says "fix the system, not me"

In Brussels, 29 September – The European Network on Independent Living – ENIL, successfully ended its 10th Freedom Drive yesterday. The event, which brought over two hundred disabled people and their personal assistants to Brussels to campaign for independent living and against institutionalisation, marked the 50th anniversary of the Independent Living movement. The Freedom Drivers met Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli and Members of the European Parliament, and staged a mock funeral procession to highlight the huge numbers of deaths of disabled people living in institutions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Freedom Drive’s key demands of the Governments and European Union institutions were to ensure Europe-wide access to Personal Assistance for all disabled people in need of this type of support. The activists demanded a renewed commitment of countries to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and close all segregated settings as a matter of priority. Among the key asks was also an immediate and enforceable ban on the use of European Union funding for the building of institutions of any size. Instead, community-based services, such as Personal Assistance, and accessible and affordable housing must be supported from the EU and national budgets.

Members of the European Parliament José Gusmão (the Left), Katrin Langensiepen (Greens/European Free Alliance), Maria Matias (the Left) and Stelios Kympouropoulos (European People’s Party) welcomed the proposals advanced by the disability activists. Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli said that the EU would continue to implement all policy measures as announced in the European Strategy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She committed to leaving “no stone unturned”, to ensure that Member States do not invest in institutions for disabled and older people.

A large contingent of young disabled people who took part in the Freedom Drive made it clear that there is no time to wait.

Martine Eliasson, a young woman from ULOBA, Norway, said: “Young people with disabilities are impatient as these human rights should have been there for them yesterday, and not tomorrow. They don’t want to wait any longer, the change should start now!”

Closing the Freedom Drive, Jamie Bolling, ENIL’s Co-Chair from Sweden said: “The Freedom Drive 2022 ended, but we will continue campaigning until all disabled people enjoy the same rights as anybody else. We don’t want to be cared for – we need support, with full control and choice to live our lives as decided by us, not others”.

The Freedom Drive is one of the key campaigns of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) – held every two years since 2003. This 10th edition of the Freedom Drive is significant because it falls on the 50th Anniversary of the Independent Living movement. To consult the full programme, please visit Media inquiries should be directed to Florian Sanden, ENIL Policy Coordinator,, 00 32 2 893 25 83.

The European Network on Independent Living – ENIL is a Europe-wide network of disabled people, with members throughout Europe. ENIL is a forum for all disabled people, Independent Living organizations and their non-disabled allies on the issues of Independent Living. ENIL represents the disability movement for human rights and social inclusion based on solidarity, peer support, deinstitutionalisation, democracy, self-representation, cross disability and self-determination. More information is available at: