Webinar 'Disability Rights Defenders Network' May 2019

The first Disability Rights Defenders (DRD) webinar took place on 20 May 2019 and was organized by ILI in cooperation with the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL). It introduced and presented the work of the DRD Network. The following report will summarize the webinar shortly. A recording of the webinar can also be watched on youtube.


The webinar was opened and moderated by Jamie Bolling, Director of ILI and Board member of ENIL. She welcomed the 16 participants who joined the webinar and explained the function, goal and agenda of the webinar. 


Adolf Ratzka, the founder of ILI, then presented DRD and its work. He spoke about the problems disabled people face today and how strategic litigation can be a useful method to fight against violations of disabled people’s rights. He explained how DRD helps to empower disabled people and their organizations and introduced the Facebook group as well as the newsletter.

Next spoke Ola Linder, ILI’s lawyer, who presented the project ‘The Law as a Tool’ (Swedish: Projektet Med Lagen som Verktyg) that was inspired by the notion that laws do not implement and enforce themselves. Laws have no effect unless they are used. As the project was funded by the Swedish Inheritance Fund, the project could not take cases to court which led to the foundation of the membership association ´The Law as a Tool´ (Swedish: Föreningen Med Lagen som Verktyg) as a platform for litigation. 

The project ‘The Law as a Tool’ focused more on information and training rather than litigation. By providing general legal advice and counseling, the project has motivated a number of persons with disabilities to claim their rights in court. In Ola’s words, the DRD network has an important role in disseminating and discussing existing legal remedies and their utilization in different legal systems around the world which can lead to legislative change and new legal remedies and strategies for addressing rights violations.


Mari Siilsalu, law student and board member of the membership association ‘The Law as a Tool’, introduced the association and its work. The association aims to establish and strengthen the disability rights litigation culture in Sweden. Therefore, the work focuses on three areas: bringing people together in seminars and meetings to discuss and learn from each other; sharing information through newsletters, videos and a guidebook on Swedish anti-discrimination; and finally, assisting persons with disabilities in litigation. The association supports disabled persons to take their cases to court when their rights have been violated. Mari Silsaluu explained and illustrated the process with examples.


The last speaker of this first webinar was Eugenia Runeberg, lawyer at DHR, a Swedish organization of persons with physical disabilities. She presented a DHR case on accessible transport. A bus driver of a private bus company under contract with the public transport authority in the Gävleborg region, had refused to let a wheelchair user on board because of his lack of training in the use of the wheelchair ramp. In a two-step trial, the Swedish Supreme Court first decided that regional authorities are under certain circumstances responsible for the accessibility of their regional public transport even when services are outsourced to and provided by private contractors. In the second part, Gävle District Court decided that discrimination did occur in the case and Region Gävleborg had to pay compensation to the discriminated person. 


This first webinar was a success and showed that webinars are a suitable method to share information and interact with network members. More webinars are in planning… Stay tuned!