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Marchers demand end to disabled ‘apartheid’

16:37 02/10/2019

Some 400 people took part in the Freedom Drive March this morning in the European Quarter to demand more services and improved policies for what it calls an ‘apartheid’ against the disabled. Participants – most of them with some kind of disability – came from across Europe to take part in the march, part of the greater Freedom Drive assembly.

Freedom Drive is an initiative of the European Network on Independent Living (Enil) and has been held every two years since 2003. With the tagline ‘Nothing about us without us!’, the Brussels-based Enil wants to make it clear that the needs of disabled people must be taken into consideration when setting EU policy.

“Across Europe, and also here in Belgium, the disabled are shunted into separate education, workplaces and housing,” said Enil communications officer Frank Sioen. “Or they are sitting at home, completely dependent on family and friends because of a lack of funding for personal assistance. We could call this apartheid, segregation. Why is this so easily accepted when it’s happening to people with disabilities?”

The march today, which culminated in meetings with MEPs, is part of a three-day event that also includes an Enil General Assembly, a conference and a meeting of the Enil Youth Network. Freedom Drive “provides supporters of the Independent Living Movement with the unique opportunity to meet MEPs and promote human rights issues, as well to share experiences and ideas with colleagues from around Europe,” says Enil on its website.

Many countries were represented in the march besides Belgium, including Armenia, Sweden, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Iceland and Ireland.

Photo courtesy Enil/Facebook

Written by Lisa Bradshaw