Adolf Ratzka awarded ULOBAs 2017 Pride Award

Adolf Ratzka winner of  ULOBAs Pride Award in Oslo  2017

Adolf Ratzka wins ULOBA's 2017 Pride Award at the annual ULOBA Pride Parade in Oslo on June 17. ULOBA's general director Vibeke Maröy Melström had this to say about the jury's decision

This year’s winner of the Pride Award has been one of Europe’s leading activists in the fight for equality for disabled people for nearly five centuries.

The award winner defines Independent Living as us having the rights, choices and control over our own lives which others often take for granted.

We should, like everyone else, be able to grow up in a family environment, go to the same local school as our friends, use the same bus service as our neighbours do, have jobs and careers which make the most of our qualifications and interests, engage in organised political work, in cultural activities and be able to establish our own families.

This year’s award winner has played an active role within the Independent Living movement since the early 70s – and thinks that things are definitely moving too slowly!

The award winner believes that it is critical that we shift our focus from fighting for indvidual rights to focusing on civil liberties overall.

We must not see ourselves as weak nor be ashamed of our differences. We must be proud and take control of our lives.

We must demand the same rights and obligations as all other citizens.

This year’s winner was one of the founders of ENIL in 1989 – the European Independent Living network, and served as its President for many years. Through his bravery and determination he has played a key part in our fight for equality. He remains an important role model today and a source of continued inspiration for disabled people all over the world.

This year’s award winner is often referred to as Scandinavia’s father for personal assistance – and has, through Bente Skansgård, had a very real impact on the lives of those of us who have personal assistants in Norway today.

When we now reveal that our award winner also established both Stockholm Independent Living (STIL) and the Independent Living Institute in Sweden, it will come as no surpirse that this year’s award goes to Adolf Ratzka, with great pride and our greatest respect.

In his acceptance speech Adof talked about how we can all be proud, as profoundly ordinary people who demand human and civil rights, rights that others take for given. 

Dear friends,

I’m very honored, proud and humbled by your award, especially, since Bente has been a recipient of it a few years ago.

The parade today is about pride. I’m proud of the award you are giving me and I want to share the award with two important women in my life.

I was 17 when I was paralyzed by polio and had to live in a hospital. After five years in the hospital in Germany, I had a chance to study at the university in the United States. With money from a scholarship I was to live and study in Los Angeles, all by myself without family, without knowing anybody there, without knowing much of the language. I needed lots of help, needed help with going to bed, needed a ventilator in order to sleep, needed help for going to the toilet, for getting bathed and dressed. With the money from the scholarship I was planning to hire fellow students as, what we today would call, my personal assistants.

I was 22, I didn’t know much about life, I didn’t know which risks would await me. My mother knew I wanted to go, she knew I would learn something important for the rest of my life. She never tried to stop me from going. Trusting in my ability to learn how to manage my life she let me go. I’m very proud of my mother.

The other woman I want to share my award with is Doro. I’ve met many people in my life who helped me along my way. Doro is the most important one. She has been my anchor in the emotional ups and downs of my life. She has been the solid ground which I needed for feeling safe and secure. We started out as travel companions. Now, we have been travelling together through life for over 30 years. We’ve had many adventures together. The biggest one so far has been raising our daughter Katharina. We adopted her in Costa Rica after four years of fighting in Swedish courts for the permission to adopt a child. Katharina was three months old when we got her. Next month she will turn 23. A few weeks ago she received her university diploma as Licensed Occupational Therapist. A few weeks ago she and her boyfriend moved together into their own apartment. I am very proud of our daughter.

I am not proud of my disability. I didn’t choose to become disabled. It is very inconvenient to be disabled. When you are disabled, society makes you dependent. We are made dependent on our families, when we don’t get enough personal assistance; we are made dependent on other people’s help, when the built environment is not accessible; we are made dependent when other people dictate how we should live our lives.

When you are disabled, people see you as being different. Sure, I look different from most people. Not many drive around in electric wheelchairs wearing nose masks for breathing and speaking. We may look eccentric but we are not special persons. We are profoundly ordinary people because, just like all human beings, we need to be seen for who we are, we need to belong, we need to be loved. These needs we share with everybody, these needs make us truly ordinary human beings.

As profoundly ordinary people we demand the same choices and control in our every-day lives that our non-disabled brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends take for granted. We want to grow up in our families, go to the neighborhood school, use the same bus as our neighbors, work in jobs that are in line with our education and interests, and start families of our own.

To this end we must support and learn from each other, organize ourselves and work for political changes that lead to the legal protection of our human and civil rights. I’m mighty proud of belonging to our international sister- and brotherhood that works for these goals. Let us all fight together for our equal rights as equal citizens. Let us all be proud.