Disability activists take fight to Europe

DISABILITY activists are to take their campaign for the rights of disabled people to live independently to the European Parliament, it emerged yesterday.

More than 50 Irish campaigners will be among thousands of people bringing their fight for rights to MEPs and the Council of Europe during the Strasbourg Freedom Drive from September 6 to 8.

Martin Naughton, from the Centre for Independent Living, said three million of the 60 million people with disabilities in Europe were living in institutions.

“We are very concerned in the first instance with the continuing institutionalisation of people with disabilities,” he said. “It is not what disabled people want. It has a negative impact and it can often cost more than helping people in their own communities.”

The campaigners will highlight the need for governments to provide resources to aid people to live independently with support through their community.

Mr Naughton said the facilities to aid independent living in the Dublin region were fairly good but across the rest of the country they were poor.

During the second Strasbourg rally, the group will be meeting with Irish MEPs, holding discussions with the European Parliament Disability Intergroup, visiting the Court of Human Rights, holding a rally outside Parliament buildings and a massive march through the city centre.

“We expect to probably have to go to march five or march six before they will take it seriously. They hope we will go away but the reality is there are 60 million people with disabilities throughout Europe. So we are here,” Mr Naughton said.

The group is also due to meet with the 107 MEPs from the Disability Intergroup, which is reviewing the state of air travel for people with disabilities.

“There is little accessibility to an aeroplane if I want to fly to London for tomorrow. I have to phone and make sure they will accept someone in a wheelchair. If they say yes then I can go ahead and book, most of these lines aren’t manned and you could be waiting for a long time. It is not unusual to be interrogated about whether can you walk,” Mr Naughton said.

“It is not easy by any means. We feel really that often the situation is: ‘Do you people really need to travel?’”

There are 50 people, including personal assistants, travelling from all over Ireland to the Strasbourg rally.

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