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Inside the bubble: Deirdre McBride, European Disability Forum
EDF defends the rights of millions of persons with disabilities across Europe. One of the main challenges we face is in getting the message across that with access to adequate support, people with disabilities can engage in society just like everyone else. I worked as an occupational therapist in Ireland and that’s something that has similar core values. There’s a human rights-based approach in understanding that the environment needs to adapt around the person, not the other way around. It’s about a shift in mindset.
I joined EDF as a volunteer in April and have just started a part-time role on a project focused on the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. There’s a lot of variety in the job and it involves contacts with people from all over the world, which I find really interesting. And there’s a lot of skills that transfer over from my previous career.
The thing that drew me to EDF in the beginning was their slogan: nothing about us without us. I think that’s really important: it means that persons with disabilities have the right to be included in the decisions that affect them and their lives. That’s such an important message.
There is lots of progress still to be made in Belgium, in terms of things like the number of children with disabilities who aren’t able to go to mainstream schools. On a personal level, I had an injury two years ago that has affected my mobility. At the time I was finding getting around the city and my apartment building so difficult that I had to go home for a few months. There’s a lot of work that could be done still in those areas, but it’s improving.
One of EDF’s key messages is that accessibility benefits everybody, not just individuals with disabilities: parents with buggies trying to get into a restaurant, or elderly people, or someone who has a short-term injury. Improving accessibility really benefits society at large.
This article first appeared in The Bulletin autumn 2018