Postcards from the edge of Europe call for ILF reprieve


newslatestThe campaign to save the Independent Living Fund (ILF) took centre stage this week as part of the first European Independent Living Day.

Events took place in Leicester, Manchester and Chesterfield, and on the internet, as countries across Europe celebrated the day, organised by the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL).

The events in England on 5 May focused on new Save the Independent Living Fund postcards, with the distinctive yellow and blue cards handed out by activists so recipients could feature them in their own “selfie” photographs, upload those pictures to the campaign’s Facebook page, and then send the postcard to the politician of their choice.

Those who have already backed the postcard campaign on its Facebook page include Jenny Sealey and Sophie Partridge, Mik Scarlet, Katherine Araniello, Jackie Driver and Michele Scattergood, chair and chief executive of Breakthrough UK, as well as several members of the Coronation Street cast.

The campaign is supported by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), Inclusion London, the Alliance for Inclusive Education and Equal Lives.

In Leicester, members of East Midlands DPAC and the new Leicestershire DPAC, joined a May Day rally, handing out the postcards, while ILF-user Anne Pridmore spoke to local media.

In Chesterfield, there was an anti-austerity open meeting, while GMCDP ran a campaigning stall in Urmston, Greater Manchester, with the help of GMCDP member Brian Hilton, who designed the postcard.

Meanwhile, DPAC organised a mass tweet for those who were not able to take part in marches and other events on the day, generating thousands of tweets through the #saveILF hashtag and on the subjects of European austerity and ENIL’s European election manifesto.

DPAC also used the day to host an article about the campaign group Quiet Riot, whose young disabled members do not use the spoken word.

The article aims to show the importance of inclusive education and facilitated communication – through which a facilitator supports a disabled person to use a keyboard by managing their movements – which is used by several of the group’s members.

Anthony Kletzander, one of the members of Quiet Riot, says in the article: “I’m wondering if using facilitated communication will help to understand me better and give me some respect.

“I wish more people were given the chance to use facilitated communication it is great to be given a voice.”

Fellow member Blake Williamson adds: “I feel very lucky to have been surrounded by people who respected my communication giving me a limited experience of negativity around FC.

“I do however know that there are those who dismiss FC, I see this in their faces and reactions.

“My concerns are for those young disabled people who, for whatever reason, are affected by such situations.”

Across Europe, there were marches, panel discussions, protests and other events held to mark European Independent Living Day, in Belarus, Estonia, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Sweden and Slovenia.

And in Bulgaria, members of CIL Sofia visited Sofia airport with posters declaring their wish to emigrate to a country with better living conditions for disabled people.

In Dublin, disabled activists Martin Naughton and Michael McCabe sat in a cage in front of a European Union building to highlight how cuts to support were leaving many disabled people feeling imprisoned and isolated.

In Berlin, there was a demonstration by more than 1,000 disabled activists and allies in front of the German parliament building.

In Armenia, a press conference that raised issues including cuts to employment programmes, accessibility issues and inclusive education was covered by eight TV channels, several radio stations, newspapers and news websites.

And in Brussels, there was a “Walk of Shame”, part of ENIL’s Stop Disability Cuts campaign, with those taking part expressing solidarity with disabled people across Europe who were living in institutions against their will, and with those affected by austerity cuts.

Jamie Bolling, ENIL’s executive director, mentioned the threatened ILF closure in a speech to mark the day.

She said: “We need politicians to go against the existing political will sustaining high-cost, ineffective institutions and also segregated solutions. We need politicians who support independent living in individual locations.

“Cuts have been much less when it comes to institutional funding, it’s more when it comes to individual support funding.”

She said disabled people needed to be out on the streets, if they were able to do so, to show that they were “proud, strong and disabled”.

7 May 2014