Valencia 2006 – History, Serbia, Disability Archive

This is the second in our series of articles covering the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) conference which was held in Valencia in November 2006. The first article can be found here

Vibeke Melstrom and Knut Flauum from ULOBA in Norway traced the history of the Disability Movement through a lively presentation combining archive photographs with popular music spanning the last sixty years.

Rosa Parks 

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in 1955, she cannot have imagined that years later she would be regarded as the ‘Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement’. In 1972, Ed Roberts founded the first Centre for Independent Living in Berkeley, California. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by George W. Bush. In 1991, ULOBA was founded in Norway by five wheelchair users. ULOBA was based on the Independent Living philosophy and was set up to combat the discrimination of Disabled People. In 2000, all municipalities in Norway had a mandatory obligation to provide Personal Assistance services. In 2003, the European Year of Disabled People and the first Strasbourg Freedom Drive was held to highlight to members of the European Parliament, the issues faced by Disabled People.

Cartoon of BusI

In 2006, over fifty years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, many Disabled People are still unable to get on buses in Europe.

Gordana Rajkov from Serbia introduced a new video that has just been produced in Serbia about their pilot ‘Personal Assistance’ project. The video called ‘The Idea Whose Time Has Come’ features some of the participants of the scheme tell their own stories about how Personal Assistance has changed their lives. One participant spoke about how it had enabled her to visit her father’s grave for the first time. Other participants spoke of how they no longer had to rely friends and family to do basic living tasks. It was striking how similar the video was, to videos regarding personal assistance from other countries. It demonstrated that people all across Europe face the same barriers to living independently and the majority of governments just expect the family of the Disabled Person to meet all the shortcomings of the statutory ‘care’ system.  

Colin Barnes spoke at length about the work of the Centre for Disability Studies at Leeds University, particularly highlighting their archive of several hundred articles and books related to Disability Politics all available online. Colin outlined the development of Independent Living in the UK and the history of the Disability Movement. He noted that there were many organisations run and controlled by Disabled People but that they all suffered from short term funding which stunted their ability to develop.

He always warned that many other larger organisations were latching on to the language around Independent Living and were stealing work away from the smaller locally based CILs. Worryingly, many other countries were experiencing similar problems, particularly in regards to winning funding applications.

Colin told the conference that one of his current pieces of work was to try and map where all the true CILs were within the UK, particularly as the UK Government aim to have a Centre for Independent Living in each local authority by 2012. Colin also distributed two of his papers ‘Disability Studies:what’s the point?’ and ‘Creating Independent Futures’. 

The final report from Valencia is here

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