European Disability Forum: Building an inclusive disability movement for the future

The European Disability Forum’s (EDF) Annual General Assembly (AGA) in Madrid, Spain, this weekend brought together over 200 participants, including AGA delegates, observers, partners, guests and members of the global disability movement. The meeting was hosted by EDF Spanish members, CERMI and ONCE Foundation. A conference was also organised in the framework of the AGA to mark EDF’s 20th anniversary.

Entitled ‘20 years later: Building an inclusive disability movement for the future’, the conference was an opportunity to recall the great achievements of the disability movement in the last 20 years, but also to identify the challenges ahead and how the disability movement should address these challenges.

Opening the meeting, EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, recalled the advances that persons with disabilities have experienced in their lives in the last 20 years. He also highlighted the great importance of the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) by the European Union (EU). However, he also talked about the responsibility of the EU to stand by the side of its citizens and improve the living conditions of all people including those with disabilities.

“We have seen the adoption of many EU laws and policies that protect, promote and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities in areas such as passengers’ rights, structural funds, employment, web accessibility etc. EDF believes in a strong and united Europe and expresses its support to the EU to be an inclusive place where all human rights are protected and people with disabilities are included in society without discrimination. EU should protect people with disabilities from austerity measures that create more poverty and inequality”, said Yannis Vardakastanis.

Moreover, EDF President raised the importance of the active involvement of persons with disabilities through their representative organisations in line with the motto of the disability movement: ‘Nothing about us without us’. “There are cases at national level that organisations of persons with disabilities are not supported or not allowed to do their work. The EU and its Member States have the obligation, under the CRPD that they have ratified, to ensure that the organisations of persons with disabilities are involved and consulted. Capacity building and funding should be secured, and barriers should be removed”, underlined Yannis Vardakastanis.

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