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Reports: ENIL and the European Union

Report to the ENIL Board March 26, 1996

I attended the HELIOS Study Group meeting on Social Integration and Independent Living in Brussels on March 21-23 1996. The following notes summarize information of relevance to ENIL.

Future of the European Disability Forum

On May 6 EDF will meet to finalize registration as a new organization, independent from HELIOS. This move is in anticipation of HELIOS´ ending on January 31, 1997 and the uncertainty about a post-HELIOS program, if any.

As to structure, the new EDF (new name not determined yet) will be an umbrella consisting of the 12 disability organizations presently represented in EDF plus 15 national umbrella organizations from each of the 15 EU member states. The new organization "will not be a closed club".

EDF has secured funds for setting up its new organization from the European Parliament. No funding from HELIOS. Funding beyond the initial stage has not been found.

Anti-discrimination clause and the new European Treaty Conference

Apparently, the anti-discrimination clause suggested earlier in, for example, the Messina Papers, and containing a whole list of minorities to be protected against discrimination does no longer include disability. Thus, as far as the EU is concerned, persons with disabilities can be discriminated against also in the future.

The anti-discrimination clause in Article 6 of the new treaty would have been a powerful instrument since it overrides national legislation.

EU and the United Nations Standard Rules

Also on May 6 the European Disability Forum and the Advisory Committee (consisting of two representatives from each member government) will discuss whether the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Persons with Disabilities will be suggested for official adoption by the European Union.

Independent Living as used by HELIOS: an empty buzz word

Participants of the Study Group meeting mention the term Independent Living with great ease. It is not always certain whether they know what they are talking about. Some examples will illustrate this: employment is contrasted to Independent Living implying that persons who cannot work can have "Independent Living". Several participants saw "independent Living" as something different from "self-determination".

One disabled person at the meeting objected to the following recommendation: "institutions and residential facilities exclusively for the use by disabled persons should be phased out." He reported that he had attended a recent meeting on Independent Living in Birmingham where persons with disabilities themselves made a strong point for wanting to live in institutions after "having tried out Independent Living and it had not worked out". Reportedly, these persons were newly injured and not people who had lived in institutions all their lives and who are too afraid now of moving out. In private, he admitted that often people do not have meaningful choices given the lack of accessible housing and given insufficient funding for personal assistance schemes.

Adolf Ratzka

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