The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is celebrating all disabled people who are using this day to demand their rights. One of these is Eduardo Jorge in Portugal, who left the nursing home to camp out in front of the Portuguese Assembly, while refusing to accept support by anyone apart from the country’s President, Prime Minister and one of the Ministers. Eduardo, just like thousands of disabled people around the world today, is demanding his right to independent living, through personal assistance, and freedom from institutionalisation; rights he is entitled to under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The international day of disabled people, typically celebrated by conferences, exhibitions and other events, is an occasion to remind ourselves about the importance of grassroots organisations of disabled people and the right to protest. The rights, set out in the CRPD, have not been negotiated in government offices, but are the result of disabled people demanding their human rights and inclusion in society, by taking direct action.
It is, therefore, of great concern that so many civil society organisations in Europe that work on human rights face problems in their work. This includes lack of funding, interference with their work, restrictions on the right to protest, intimidation, and it is not something disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have been immune to. Moreover, disabled people are still too often excluded from decisions that concern them, or are having their interests represented by service providers, families or charities.
According to a press release, ENIL, calls on the European institutions, as well as national Governments, to implement Articles 4(3) and 33(3) CRPD, and the General Comment No. 7, on the participation of disabled people, including children, in monitoring of the Convention. This includes removing any legal, procedural or financial barriers, ensuring the autonomy of DPOs in deciding their advocacy agenda and making sure that the voices of disabled people are not substituted by third parties.
This day – the International Day of Persons with Disabilities – belongs to disabled people like Eduardo Jorge, who are placing their own lives at risk to demand rights that others take for granted – to have choice and control over our lives and not to be segregated in institutions and excluded form society. Let us celebrate that.
The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is a Europe-wide grass-roots network of disabled people, with members throughout Europe. Our mission is to be a strong voice of disabled people and advocate for everyone’s right to Independent Living.