“What bothers me was that people would imagine how my life looks like just by looking at me sitting on the wheelchair”. These words were uttered by a disabled Italian man whose life changed after a car accident some years ago. An accident that put him on the wheelchair.
This gentlemen was one of the several men and women who gathered yesterday at the European Parliament along with MEP Brando Benifei, Emanuelle Grange (Head of Unit- Disability and Inclusion, DG EMPL,EC), Luke Zelderloo (Secretay General EASPD), Italian MP Laura Coccia, Alex Toselli ( Albergo Etico), Frank Sioen (Secretariat ENIL) and Catherine Naughton (Director EDF).
What was planned to be an official discussion on the status of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Europe, with particular focus on the right to employment and the right to independent living, turned out into an emotive congregation with and among the men and women who are on the front line to make a difference in the life of many disabled people across Europe.
It has been finally recognized that people with disabilities are rights-bearers and not passive recipients of care. Hence the need, in Italy as in Europe, to continue the path towards a more just and inclusive society.
The most memorable highlights of the afternoon though, were marked by the acknowledgments and the instances voiced by those who have so much to offer, to share, to inspire and to hail as heros, like Lorenzo Ludi, an Italian boy born in 1988 whose presence loomed large in the room.
A difficult birth has earned him a suffocation of which he still bears the consequences. Despite the severe brain injury, Lorenzo has found a way to communicate and relate with the world: He paints.
Contrary to my reporterting duties, this time I am not going to list the takeaways from the conference. To be updated on the implementation progress, I strongly advice you to follow Benifei ‘s works on twitter (@brandobenifei), and preside the website of EDF, EASPD and ENIL.
I just want to sign off this post with the gallery of some of Lorenzo’s paintings and assure you that the road ahead regarding the full implementation of the UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a hard battle but it is being fought by dedicated and undeterred concerned citizens, civil society organizations and policy makers. With their dedication it is possible to imagine and make a better future for disabled people in Europe.
PS 1: Where was the press? Nobody from the EU press corp bothered to attend the event.
PS 2: An applause to the interpreters who worked over time and were happy to do so.