International Youth Day: messages from the members of the European Disability Forum Youth Committee

International Youth Day: messages from the members of the European Disability Forum Youth Committee

Happy International Youth Day! In a few days we will be publishing an edition of our newsletter the Disability Voice dedicated to all young persons with disabilities. In the meantime, here are some messages from part of our Youth Committee members. This year, the Youth Committee has chosen Independent Living as the topic of this international day. We talked with them about the importance of living independently for young persons with disabilities and what does it mean for them.

Kamil Goungor from Greece, Chair of the Youth CommitteeKamil

I am Kamil Goungor, living in the city of Athens (Greece) with my family. We don’t have personal assistance in the country so far, so we are relying on our families (if we are lucky and have one that wants to support us) for almost everything. Mine is very supportive and this helped me to develop and have a good life (for Greek standards), but still it is not completely independent.

To me Independent Living means to have choice and control over your life, while living in the community with dignity. It is important for all the disabled people, for our families, for our friends, and for the society in general. For me Independent Living is the cornerstone of disability activism, and when you have it you can fight stronger for everything else.

Francesca Sbianchi from Italy

I am Francesca Sbianchi. I am partially sighted and live and work in Italy, in the Umbria Region. I am  a member of the National Council of the Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted (UICI) and of the National Board of the Institute for Research, Training and Rehabilitation (I.Ri.Fo.R.). I give my contribution to those entities on a voluntary basis. In Italy, while persons with disabilities with a certain degree/percentage of disability, profoundly deaf people,  blind people and people with partial blindness/severe low vision are entitled to receive an allowance (of different amounts) on the sole ground of disability, as well as a pension if their income is below a certain amount -which can help to get the support they need- partially sighted people have to rely on themselves and the support of family and friends to overcome the challenges often posed by an inaccessible environment.

In my opinion, independent living means being free to live as you see fit, to make your own choices and to contribute to society. For this to be possible for persons with disabilities, in an ideal world everything should be created according to the Design-for-All principle, but in any case it is essential to remove all the different physical, sensory, communicative and emotional barriers that stand between us and our independence.

ErikaErika Becerra from Italy living in the UK

Hi, my name is Erika Becerra, and I am an autistic person. For me “Independent Living” means a bit of everything, when I started my journey within EDF, I couldn’t define myself independent at all, the conquest of my autonomies arrived just later on, when I moved from Italy, my country of origin, to the UK. Well, this allowed me to have an overview above both the cultures and different policies and approaches to disability issues. First of all in Italy there does not exist a welfare system, nor an updated economic model able to reflect the needs of a whole society, not just an elite. Italian system is dramatically backward with respect to other countries worldwide and the average population is very ignorant and not open to changes.This makes it very difficult to build acceptance and just to introduce a civilised new system. General view around disability is still strongly connected to a negative stigma, something that needs to be hidden, corrected, something that creates an uncomfortable social tension and the authorities still didn’t get exactly how to manage. So imagine in a scenario like this depicted one how it was possible for me to have ambitions of independent living, career, or everything. In fact at the time I joined the EDF in 2012 it wasn’t. I was without a job, without an education, without a title, without money and with indescribable mental health issues caused due to the maladjustment to the hostile and imprepared environment I was living in. Independent living for a person with disability means an investment, people with disability can achieve their independent living, but this is impossible without being funded, if funded people with disability are able to achieve their long term life goals and contribute to the economy with more loyalty and determination than non disabled workers. Unfortunately people with disabilities still are facing stigma and lack of sensible organisations and governments interested in investing for the long term goals of our whole society. Independent living means to level-up the spending in the way to meet the needs of everyone, even if this will mean investing more for those who at this time in this society are not considered as a resource yet.

Since I moved in UK, I was able to have a job, rent a house, look after myself, this has boosted incredibly my self esteem and motivated to do more and more, most of my mental health issues was self-resolved, I am proud of myself everyday and I am on a productive virtuous cycle, able to attract and release good fortune around me. An independent person is not only one weight less to carry, but a resource for the others where being able to rely on.

Do you want to know Youth Committee work?

The Youth Committee is the voice of young people with disabilities inside EDF. Its role is to ensure that EDF’s work takes into account the perspective of young people with disabilities but also to represent young people with disabilities in both EDF and external events.

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Youth Committee