by Marija Michaud
On 22 May and 23 May 2023 we attended the General Assembly of the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the meeting of the 5th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities.
Mr. Jernej Sluga was also present at the General Assembly as President of the AIA. Over 200 people from disability organisations across Europe gathered, with Catherine Naughton standing behind them with dedication. As in Athens last year, the General Assembly was carefully organised. The EDF staff always goes out of their way to make sure that all the guests feel welcomed and heard. The activities of the past year were reviewed, both from financial and operational point of view. EDF also has challenges between reconciling work policies and finances, and last year they even managed to make savings. Translation for the deaf, blind and visually impaired, and transport and accommodation for event participants are major costs. They are aware that many people would not be able to attend meetings without these allowances.
The question is how to combat the gap between practice reality and laws papyrology. As an example, it was mentioned that we all talk about accessibility in different areas, but it is known that these areas are not accessible for people with disabilities or different limitations. There was talk of changes to membership administration and mandate renewals and a manifesto with proposals for people who make decisions in the EU to do for people with disabilities.
We held a minute’s silence for two active members for disability rights who have passed away. The late Jolijin, still with her colourful identity, told our table in Greece last year that the world needs more colours. We were surprised to hear of her death, even though we are both stroke survivors and both of our lives have changed suddenly.
The official opening of the 5th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities was opened by Roberta Metsola, President of the Parliament, and Yannis Vardakastanis, President of EDF, followed by speeches by members of the Parliament and other organisations.
The 724 participants were the voice of 180 million people across Europe. Despite the limitations, every vote counts. We are all contributing to a better future, each to the best of our ability.
It was pointed out that the rise in the cost of living has an impact on the decent living of people with disabilities. One proposal was to set a minimum income on the EU level for people with disabilities. The right to vote for all people with disabilities was promoted.
Mr Jernej Sluga, President of the AIA, Mr Borut Sever, President of the FIHO Foundation, and the Slovenian delegation led by Mrs Mateja Toman, President of NSIOS, met with EU Commissioner Mr Janez Lenarčič.
We had an all-round experience during our stay in Brussels. Brussels is a beautiful capital with historic buildings, but their parks are less neat than ours. We were surprised by the amount of rubbish in bags on the pavements.
Having worked on European projects before having the stroke, it was interesting to see where the directives are adopted to implement all the actions. In the future, it is necessary to go to such events better prepared, with good speeches and announcements. Every organisation has the opportunity to make proposals and contribute to change. Nothing about us, without us.
June 13, 2023