Photo of John Clarke in a blue Enable Scotland T-Shirt

“As part of #ENABLEtheVote, I went to Westminster and spoke in front of Members of Parliament!”

ACE is an Active Community of Empowered People who have learning disabilities, and we meet in communities across Scotland every month. Through ACE I took part in #ENABLEtheVote.

We started #ENABLEtheVote because many ACE members had never voted before and this was something we wanted to change. Our voices matter and they should be heard in local and national elections.

Before #ENABLEtheVote I had voted in an election, but when I did I would just glance at the paper and mark any of them. I never really understood that each choice offered something different, or that my vote would actually have an impact. Noone had ever talked to me about voting before. But all that has changed.

As part of #ENABLEtheVote, I went to Westminster and spoke in front of Members of Parliament. I told them that I have a learning disability and that nonetheless I can make a difference. I can say what needs to be said and make things change. They listened, and they took me seriously. They even asked if they could use my speech as evidence in a debate the next day.

Everybody in society has needs, and it is important that everyone’s needs are met. Life with a learning disability isn’t easy, but with the help of organizations like ENABLE Scotland, people like me can make things better.

You can read more about #ENABLEtheVote in their factsheet.

Jovan Slavnić working in the bakery preparing dough on a tray

“I am free and happy here. I would never return to an institution!”

My name is Jovan Slavnić. I am 35 years old and I have lived in a small home community in Novi Sad, Serbia, since 2009. Before I came to Novi Sad I lived in a few institutions, where I ran away several times because everything there was terrible. For example, I was not allowed to spend time with people outside the institution. Every day was the same. I had nothing to do and nothing of my own. When I met Dragica, I fell in love and stopped running away. Instead, I dreamed that I would somehow get out of the institution, go to school, find a job, and marry Dragica. Thanks to the community living programme supported by Milan Petrovic, we are now living together in an apartment with two friends.

As soon as I left the institution, I started going to school. In June 2018, I became a baker and got a job in a bakery. I go to work by bus. I love to spend my free time playing with my dog and having fun with my friends. I also enjoy watching football matches at a nearby coffee shop, because I can cheer loudly.  When I receive my salary, I take out Dragica and my friends to eat cakes.

Read more about the Supported Living in the Community project in their factsheet.

Maria Ivașcu, sitting in a wheelchair in a rehearsal room, extends her hands to join them with a young man, who also has his hands extended

“Since I began acting, I have learned that I don’t have to be afraid anymore.”

Fear. Fear kept me home. Fear wouldn’t let me talk to people. Fear prevents many people with disabilities from participating in society.

I am Maria Ivașcu and I am 20 years old. I am in the Alternativ theatre troupe and I support other people with disabilities to overcome fear and integrate into society. I always dreamt that one day I would perform, but never imagined that I would fulfill my dream. I never imagined that I would speak to so many people and explain that I can do the same things they can. I don’t have to stay home just because I use a wheelchair. Since I began acting, I have learned that I don’t have to be afraid anymore. I am a person and I have equal rights.

My life has changed, and the lives of people with disabilities in the communities where we perform have changed as well. Our performances are designed to stop and prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in schools and kindergartens. We show audiences the reality of the situation in their community. We then invite spectators to the stage and they offer solutions to help stop discrimination. Audiences learn that they don’t have to avoid people with disabilities, because we are all the same. We can all learn from each other.

For more information, read the Forum Theatre factsheet.

Risnawati Utami, smiling, posts her ballot into a ballot box

“Based on our observations, we made recommendations to the government, many of which have been adopted.”

I am Risnawati Utami, from Indonesia. I am 45 years old and have had a physical disability since I was four.

In 1999, Indonesia experienced its first election after Suharto, who served as president for 31 years, stepped down. To ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in the election process, I decided to be an observer in my hometown of Solo, in Central Java. As a result, I found that persons with disabilities who lived in rehabilitation centres were not registered to vote. However, at that time I did not use any standardized tools to observe the election.

When I served as an observer in the presidential election of 2014, it was much more accessible and organized than in 1999. This time I worked with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and together we developed a comprehensive tool to assess the accessibility of elections. This included recruiting 150 people with disabilities to serve as observers. Based on these observations, we made recommendations to the government on how to make the elections more accessible, many of which have been adopted.

In 2018, I was elected to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee. One of my commitments as a new member of the committee is to develop a General Comment on Article 29, which sets out the framework for the participation of persons with disabilities in political life. Of course, to draft the comment I plan to use my personal experience serving as an election observer.

Read more about the IFES Election Access Observation Toolkit in their factsheet.

Zero Project Logo

I have the confidence to make life choices I could never even imagine.

My name is Rodrigo and I am 29 years old from Cuernavaca, Mexico. When I arrived at Unidos it was something unexpected because I had never separated from my family. In spite of this, my parents considered it important for me to attend and socialize. I loved it because for the first time in my life I had my own friends, friends who were not my mom’s or my dad’s or anyone else’s friends. They were my own friends! I’ve never in my life enjoyed something as much as Unidos. Thanks to Unidos now I have the confidence to make life choices I could never even imagine. I´m going to take acting lessons and have a part time job.

Find out more about Unidos’ social inclusion programmes by reading the Unidos factsheet.

A photo of Patricio in his pig farm

“Now I am raising pigs and getting support for it from the municipality.”

My name is Patricio and I am 38 years old. Seven years ago, due to an accident at work, I lost my right leg. For four years I took refuge in alcohol and did not want to leave the house. I separated from my wife and daughters.

The field promoter of the MINKA project visited me a few times in my home to invite me to meetings of the local self-help group. After much reluctance I decided to attend the meetings, and since then I have not stopped.

I have also actively participated in meetings for the elaboration of the local disability law in my municipality, and I have defended the ordinance at town hall meetings.

My life has changed radically.

I am currently the president of the new association of people with disabilities in the municipality of Espíndola. I have returned to work and have obtained support for the raising of pigs, thanks to compliance with the local law that states that the municipality will support the small businesses of people with disabilities and their families. Now I travel to other towns in the municipality to disseminate and promote compliance with the ordinance.

But most importantly, I have regained confidence in myself and have re-established my family.

Read more about the MINKA project in this factsheet.

TOPHOUSE logo

We are excited to announce that the TOPHOUSE Report on person-centred housing is now available for download.

The TOPHOUSE Report “Including Person-Centered Approaches and User Involvement in Integrated Housing and Support”, coordinated by the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), is intended to serve as an overview at European level of existing promising practices on integrated housing & support, with a particular focus in four EU countries (Austria, Finland, Ireland and Spain).

The TOPHOUSE Report aims at serving as a reference and supporting document not only for the development and implementation of the TOPHOUSE project but also for other upcoming projects committed to the promotion of the Integrated Housing & Support principles. That is why some findings and a conclusions chapter are included, outlining a possible way forward on how to develop adequate housing assessment & allocation processes and how to do this specialist job more consistently.

Find out more by going to the TOPHOUSE page on the Zero Project website and download the report here.

Photo of Hun Sreynak, a user of Light for the World`s Leadership Skills for Women with Disabilities programme

“We are helped, and we help other women with disabilities through setting up our own projects.”

My name is Hun Sreynak and I contracted polio at the age of three. I was not able to walk, and when I wanted to start attending school my parents told me I could not do so because of my disability. So I spent a whole year teaching myself to walk so I could attend school.

I faced discrimination in many ways during my school years, and especially at university where I had to crawl up the stairs to class on the third and fifth floors. This is the situation for many people with disabilities in Cambodia – they face discrimination in all stages of life, especially women.

In 2016, I applied and got accepted to Light for the World’s Leadership Skills for Women with Disabilities programme. Here I met many women with different types of disabilities, and I learned that I was not alone! We all had good times together and enjoyed the training. This programme empowers us: we learn, share, and practice monitoring and evaluation, all of which provides us with meaningful opportunities to demonstrate our competency and ability to other people.

We are helped, and we help other women with disabilities through setting up our own projects. In 2017, my new leadership skills were acknowledged as I formally joined Light for the World as a Programme Liaison Officer; and in 2018, I received a scholarship for a Master’s programme in Disability Studies in Kuala Lumpur.

Read more about Light for the World’s Leadership Skills for Women with Disabilities project in their factsheet.

Photo of Osku Timonen holding his EU Disability Card

“I could enjoy the music on an accessible platform and with a good view.”

My name is Osku Timonen, and in June 2018 I became one of the very first recipients of an EU Disability Card in Finland. I don’t need any assistive devices, but in my daily life I do need some help, for example, while carrying food and drinks.

The card has already proven very useful in several situations. For instance, last summer I had a chance to participate in a number of music festivals, and in each instance the festival staff warmly welcomed me after I showed them my EU Disability Card. As a result, I was able to enjoy the music on an accessible platform and with a very good view of the main stage. The card has also been useful on the Finnish railways, where I have readily found someone to help me to carry my things. And in the cinemas the card has been an easy way to prove my disability and my need for assistance.

As I’m a very keen traveller, I am hoping that the EU Disability Card will also prove helpful while travelling abroad.

You can find out more about the EU Disability Card by reading the factsheet.

A photo of Enya, a beneficiary of the Cerebral Palsy Rehabilitation Programme (PREPACE)

“My father publicly apologized to me for being so overprotective.”

My name is Enya. I was born in a home with three brothers in the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Being the only girl and living with cerebral palsy, I had all the affection but also the overprotection of my family, and so grew up as a shy child. I graduated from high school with the support of the PREPACE Inclusive Education Programme, but I could not go to university due to economic and accessibility difficulties.

This harsh reality motivated me to participate as a founder of the Honduran Independent Living Movement (MOVIH), and I was selected to travel to Osaka, Japan, to take the course on Independent Living at the Mainstream Independent Living Centre. I had to persuade myself that I could do it, and I had to persuade my parents to give me permission.

I returned with a positive attitude, surer of myself and of what I wanted from life. I travelled the country convening conferences, but my family still put obstacles in my way. My father attended a training conducted by MOVIH on the role of parents in the lives of people with disabilities. As a result, he publicly apologized to me for being so overprotective and for having limited me by deciding for me. From that moment on, he promised to respect my decisions, and he has complied.

Yuo can read more about the programme in the PREPACE factsheet.