Towards living in the community. (Prague, Czech Republic)
Inclusion Europe held its Annual Congress “Europe in Action 2005” in Prague from 19-21 May 2005, organised in collaboration with Inclusion Czech Republic with the support of the European Commission, the Czech Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and the Open Society Mental Health Initiative. More than 300 participants explored what is required to make progress Towards living in the community. The participants have been clear about their vision and gave a ‘red card’ to large institutions.
Today, more than 160 000 Europeans are denied a fundamental EU right to choose where they live, just because they are disabled. Participants in the Congress, Inclusion Europe and Inclusion Czech Republic are calling for governments to recognise the fundamental EU right for ‘all European citizens to reside freely in the community’; a right now enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The main theme of the Congress, Towards living in the community, is a timely and vitally important topic across all European countries. Participants were clear about their vision. In the terms of the ‘traffic light’ cards used during the conference to improve the accessibility of the discussions:
- We are clear that it is a red card for institutions: there is no reason in the 21st century in Europe that anyone with an intellectual disability should live in an institution.
- We say yes to community-based services for all – but this commitment is made with a cautionary yellow card. While everyone is entitled to live in an ordinary house in an ordinary street, it is still possible to be ‘in’ the community but not ‘part of’ the community. High quality community-based services are the means, they are not the end.
- Rather we use the green card to say yes to every person with an intellectual disability having the opportunities and support to lead an ordinary life. Our main objective is better lives not just better services.
Vladimir Špidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, in his opening address, identified in the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, four important rights that should be used to claim the right of all people to be included and to fight discrimination. He said that all people, including disabled people, have the right:
- to be integrated in society,
- to be independent,
- to work,
- to take part in social life.
However, across much of Europe, and despite many years of effort, for most people with intellectual disabilities there is still a huge gap between our vision and their current experience. There remain obstacles to overcome.