On the 24th – 28th September 2017 EUD participated in the Freedom Drive 2017, one of the key campaigns organised by the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), held every two years since 2003. Freedom Drive 2017 has developed over the years and was a large 4-day event, which brought together up to 300 activists. Freedom Drive provided EUD with the unique opportunity to promote human rights issues, especially the ones related to disability rights, as well as to share experiences and ideas with colleagues from around Europe. During the Freedom Drive as an advocacy campaign, EUD and other participants demanded full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in Member States and on the European level.
The goal of the Freedom Drive 2017 was to raise the key concerns of the European Independent Living movement with the European policy and decision makers in Brussels. The Freedom Drive motivational workshops and the conference provided a platform to facilitate an exchange of ideas with European level policy makers as well as to develop new strategies and partnerships. EUD and other participants met with Members of the European Parliament, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen and other EU officials and organisations. Throughout the discussions the importance of full implementation of UNCRPD across the EU was emphasised. Moreover, it was highlighted that, the European initiatives that have a potential to benefit lives of persons with disabilities, such as European Accessibility Act or the European Pillar of Social Rights must be strong and enforceable.
During the conference ‘A Voice for All!’ a discussion with the Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness on the rights of children as well as young people with disabilities, and their families, took place to ensure that disabled children’s voices are heard at the European level. Mrs. McGuinness highlighted that while advocating for the right to independent living, it is essential to ensure that no one is left behind. Often children and young people with disabilities lack strong voice and are overlooked by disabled people’s organisations and this needs to change. Therefore, the conference provided an opportunity for children and young people with disabilities themselves as well as children’s rights advocates and experts to be the main speakers, to explain about the barriers they face and to encourage policy makers to remove them.
Freedom Drive was an event of disability pride, with many young people with disabilities joining the march for Independent Living through Brussels. EUD as an organisation representing rights of Deaf people together with other organisations and participants participated and showed that people with disabilities are proud, strong and visible!