Half the Way to Disability Awareness

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | December 2, 2003, Tuesday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Half the Way to Disability Awareness People with disabilities raised common voice in defense of their rights at the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo by www.edf-feph.org

By Irina Papancheva

"Weeks in advance I needed special mental and physical training. To even dare to get here. To make my way on stage. To make my speech. To not listen to the voice inside that reminds me I cannot do this. To force my body to make my disability as little as possible. For, ladies and gentlemen, I had only three minutes of speaking time. And I stutter...", said the delegate from the European League of Stuttering Association ELSA and its board member, Anita Blom, in her speech in front of the European Parliament for Disabled People (EPDP).

EPDP, which took place at the European Parliament in Brussels at the beginning of November, gave the possibility to disabled people to share the feelings, connected with their disability in front of a wide audience. A total of 300 delegates and observers from 28 European countries gathered for the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the UN standard rules on the rights of disabled people. The hidden but significant meaning of the EPDP, organized by the European Parliament with the particular support from its Disability Intergroup and the European Disability Forum (EDF) and financed by the European Commission, was the experience and new-born feelings of strength and self confidence, which it gave to its participants.

"A good meeting with an important message and hopefully even a lasting impact, and our message came through. My fear of speaking is completely gone", shared Anita after the sessions.

The European Council unanimously declared 2003, "European year of People with Disabilities" on December 3, 2001 under a proposal, made by the European Disability Forum (EDF). Many events, organized by the local or International disability organizations, were held in different European countries over the year, enabling people with disabilities to raise a common voice in defense of their rights.

"Two people cannot have equal abilities since the abilities of all people are different, but people should have equal chance and that's what we want", the chairman of the Bulgarian Disability Council, Krasimir Kotsev, said. Kotsev, the chairman of the Bulgarian Blind People Union Vassil Dolapchiev and the Chairman of the Deaf People Union Vassil Panev were the Bulgarian delegates at the EPDP. The three of them are among the co-founders and board members of the Bulgarian Disability Council, established at the beginning of 2003.

"The most important thing, which was done at the EP was the adoption of separate points and election of persons in charge who will prepare the materials related to the statements, made at the Parliament, and to the European legislation. The aim is a draft version of a common document to be brought at the European Commission by the end of 2003", Kotsev continued. This document will be taken into consideration in the future legislation in the enlarged European Union.

A new horizontal legislation, that will protect disabled people from discrimination, in all fields of life to be adopted, was among the key demands, included in the manifesto for the forthcoming European Parliament elections.

Another one was the new EU Constitution to ensure that all legislative measures on non-discrimination against disabled people are adopted by qualified majority voting instead of the current unanimity system. Last but not least the manifesto required the next year's EP elections to be made more accessible for people with disabilities and disabled candidates.

"The event leaves us (the parliamentarians) the duty to follow up and to deliver", stated the EP President, Patrick Cox, in his speech in front of the EPDP.

The potential new legislation however is half of the way towards practical changes, concerning life of people with disabilities. The rest of it is in the society and its perception of these people. They need neither sorrow nor special attention, but the simple things we all deserve - respect and equal chance.
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