CILNI delegation attend Freedom Drive in Brussels

CILNI organised a delegation from Northern Ireland to participate in the ENIL 2019 Freedom Drive.  The three-day event brought together 300 Independent Living activists from 20 nations in Brussels. The Drive’s 4 main demands included an end to institutionalisation of disabled people across Europe, access to personal assistance in all countries, full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the end to cuts to support services and benefits for disabled people.

After touring the European Parliament, the delegation met with Alliance MEP, Naomi Long.  An informative discussion with Naomi and her team covered issues including independent living, disabled access, disability rights post-Brexit and freedom of movement as part of the EU.

On the second day of the event, hundreds of disabled people from across Europe marched through the streets of Brussels. Armed with posters, megaphones, drums, flags, and other props, the demonstration descended on the European Parliament. At the culmination of the march, ENIL’s demands were delivered to Europe’s decision makers in a way to ensure that they recognised the strength of feeling behind them.

The last of the event’s three days played host to the Conference on Independent Living, ENIL’s General Assembly, and a meeting of the Youth Network. All three events took stock of a week of promoting independent living, peer support, protest and the celebration of disability rights.

Amongst the main takeaways from the Drive was a better understanding of the problems faced by disabled people across Europe. The obstacles to independent living faced by disabled people on a daily basis differ little from country to country.

Many of the Freedom Drivers shared similar stories of inaccessible streets and public places like pubs, schools and even hospitals. Disabled people from many nations, too, complained of a difficulty in getting PAs or enough publicly funded hours to support them.

What the delegates at the event also shared were positive examples of how they all seek to influence and inspire change. From promoting stories in the local media to meeting with politicians, influential disabled people across Europe are working hard for the independent living philosophy.

Connecting with like-minded people across Europe helped further inspire the Northern Ireland delegates to have their voices heard. In light of Freedom Drive 2019, CILNI will be redoubling its efforts to share and promote its ideas and vision as widely as possible and helping to empower disabled people to make real change.

 

 

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