We mourn the loss of Rodolfo Cattani, Italian disability champion



We mourn the loss of Rodolfo Cattani, Italian disability champion

We mourn the loss of Rodolfo Cattani with a very heavy heart. Rodolfo was involved with EDF since our very beginning and was an active member of the Executive Committee until June. We are shocked and saddened by his passing, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

A life of achievements

Rodolfo Cattani speaking at a panel, with two blurred pople in the foreground
In memoriam, 1941-2022
Credits: Google

Rodolfo, born in 1941, worked as a schoolteacher and the managing director of the Italian National Library for the Blind, in addition to many leadership positions in disability organisations.

Rodolfo was invaluable to the advance of the rights of persons with disabilities. He was not only a member of our Executive Committee but also the President of the European Blind Union. In addition, he occupied various strategic positions at the World Blind Union and the Italian Disability Forum.

Several people, EDF board members, pose for a photo in 2005. Rodolfo is on the left next to EDF's President
Rodolfo poses with the elected board of EDF during our 2005’s General Assembly

His talents and acumen were unmatched. Rodolfo played an integral part in making crucial policies a reality. His activism was critical to passing the European Accessibility Act, the Web Accessibility Directive and the Marrakech Treaty. He was a visionary who steered our social policy work. He described his favourite moments with EDF as: the adoption of the Madrid Declaration on “Non-discrimination plus positive action results in social inclusion”; our 1million4Disability campaign;  the 4th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities in 2017; and the campaign for the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.

EDF Executive Committe in 2017. Rodolfo can be seen standing as the second person on the left.
EDF Executive Committee members pose after their election in our General Assembly in 2017 (Madrid)

In his interview in July, he said that “EDF is a unique place for promoting human rights, justice, social inclusion and peace”. With his passing, the disability movement truly lost a leader.

The farewell to Prof. Cattani (a non-religious ceremony) will take place tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Sala del Commiato in via Monza 1 in Villasanta (MB). The family does not want flowers, but anyone who wants can donate to the UICI Section of Monza:

Name: UICI ONLUS MB

IBAN: IT52L0306909606100000002525

BIC: BCITITMMXXX

Bank: INTESA SANPAOLO S.P.A.

PIAZZA PAOLO FERRARI, 10
MILANO 20121

Tributes

His passion and his drive marked everyone who he came into contact with. Below, we shared the words of some of his friends and colleagues. Your words about Rodolfo can be sent to andre.felix@edf-feph.org.

Group photo from 2011: left to right -then EU Commissioner Viviane Reding, EDF President Yannis Vrdakastanis, Rodolfo Cattani and Jaivier Guëmes, EDF Director
Rodolfo Cattani and Yannis Vardakastanis meet with then Commission Viviane Reding in 2011

Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum said:

Rodolfo Cattani was a historic figure in the disability rights movement in Italy, Europe and globally for half a century. I was blessed to meet Rodolfo 40 years ago, and ever since, we have traveled together promoting disability rights. We were there together in the founding of the European Blind Union and the World Blind Union in 1984. Rodolfo was there with all of us at the founding of the European Disability Forum in 1997.  Rodolfo was and will remain a part of our collective soul. Personally, I and my family lost a great friend. We are going to remember Rodolfo as a man of culture, courage, honesty and dedication, as a man of values and principles. Rodolfo knew how to enjoy life. Rodolfo’s passing leaves a huge void at all levels.

 

Luisa Bosiso Fazzi, from the Italian Disability Forum said;

It is not easy to hold back the emotion in recounting Rodolfo’s memory.

I knew Rodolfo in the disability movement. I knew his commitment and tenacity in the battle for the recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities. Competent, professional, objective, sincere. He was a guide, teacher and counsellor for all the people who worked with him and who learned from him the meaning of dignity and self-determination. In Europe, he helped to build, from its foundations, the EDF, which is now a strong and valuable organisation. The members and all the staff are close to the family. He was also a friend and will be missed.

 

Wolfgang Angermann, Vice-President of the European Blind Union said:

Rodolfo was extremely well known and respected throughout the disability movement, not only being deeply involved in EBU, but also with WBU, EDF, UICI in Italy, and in many other roles throughout a long and distinguished career. His diplomatic and linguistic skills, and profound knowledge of EU institutions were legendary, earning the respect of all those who worked with him, but he also made great impact on people through his personal warmth and wisdom, and his love of life.

It is an understatement to say that he will be deeply missed, and our thoughts go out to Anna, his wife, and all his family, friends and colleagues throughout Europe and worldwide.

The EBU officers and board members will take on our President’s inspiration and ideas with ability and care, knowing that, from the bottom of his heart, our President has always done everything to ensure a successful and sustaining work of EBU.

A panel during our General Assembly in 2017. Rodolfo is sitted on the left and is also on the big screen
Rodolfo speaks during our General Assembly in 2017.

Catherine Naughton, Director of the European Disability Forum, said on behalf of our secretariat:

We are heartbroken in the EDF secretariat. We cannot believe we will not see Rodolfo Cattani again. We relied on him for leadership, his progressive human rights approach, his engagement, his unfailing support and his responses to any of our queries. He was always there for us. He was always wise and gave his time generously.

We had so much respect and admiration for Rodolfo.

We will never forget him.

 

Maureen Piggot, Treasurer of the European Disability Forum, said:

The shocking and sad news of Rodolfo’s death has been hard to take in.  Rodolfo Cattani was a man with presence – once met, never forgotten.

At the first European Day of Persons with Disabilities I attended, I had the good fortune to sit beside Rodolfo and Anna, who made me feel welcome, included. It quickly became apparent what an extraordinary man he was and what an excellent partner he had in Anna. Many years and tables later, I am trying to imagine the European disability movement without him.

Rodolfo’s presence will be felt for some time. I am sure we will continue to hear his voice resonating in many debates around EDF tables.

 

Vera Bonvalot, our Executive Committee member and Vice-President of the Brain Injured Federation Europe said:

It is very difficult to imagine the EDF meetings without the presence and intervention of Rodolfo Cattani.

Rodolfo was the first person to welcome me and accept my limitations, trying to explain and accept faults in memory or others. He showed affection, patience and, at the same time, a lot of pragmatism and coherence in his way of being and defending what he believed in. He was never self-centred and manifested a unique assertiveness and clarity of ideas. The EDF and the disabled person’s defense movement will be much poorer without this ally and strong fighter.

I have great respect for Rudolfo Catani, who for me is one of the greatest figures in EDF and who I will always keep in my heart. May he rest in peace, but he will never leave, for he is part of us.

 

Klaus Lachwitz,  our Executive Committee member said:

What a loss for all of us! A great and impressive man has left us! I admired his wisdom, his fantastic memory, his huge engagement with EDF, his communicative skills, and his ability to describe complex topics in several languages. I loved to talk with him in my mother tongue. His German was not only perfect, it was warm and vivid.

Sitting beside him with a glass of wine and listening to his anecdotes always was a guarantee of an unforgettable evening. He was a strong and vital person, and his beloved wife supported him in a way that he could act as a central pillar for so many years, not only for EDF but for the European Blind Union and the disability movement in Italy.

What a loss!

 

Alejandro Moledo, Deputy Director of the European Disability Forum, said:

I am truly devastated about the loss of Rodolfo. He was the first EDF Executive Committee member I worked with and learned from when I joined EDF. His outstanding political intelligence, his commitment, his sense of humour, his progressive ideas, and his powerful voice and passion really inspired me throughout these years. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Rodolfo.

 

André Félix, Communications Coordinator at the European Disability Forum, said:

Rodolfo was a truly outstanding person. He truly supported us and always had great advice and kind words about our work. I often remember him as the first to reply to our questions about communications with great and detailed input, as well as with nuggets of advice. Most recently, I had the occasion to spend an hour with him talking about EDF’s history and its contribution – he was a fountain of knowledge and insight for the future. I will miss him.

 

Loredana Dicsi, Membership, Internal Communication and Youth Officer at the European Disability Forum, said:

I had the pleasure to meet Rodolfo in 2008 when I joined my husband in one of the European Blind Union’s meetings. When I heard him, I was impressed by his knowledge, intelligence and speech. Later I met him on other occasions in EBU. In 2015, when I joined EDF, he was chairing the Membership and Credentials Committee. We worked a lot together, and I could always count on his support and his valuable knowledge. He helped me deepen my knowledge of ous statues, our philosophy and the disability movement. It is a huge loss for the blind and disability community of which I am part. I’ll miss him a lot! I wish his family a lot of strength and resilience to cope with this huge loss.

 

Haydn Hammersely, Senior Social Policy officer  at the European Disability Forum said:

As well as his impressive and relentless contribution to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities, Rodolfo will equally be remembered for his sense of humour and the warmth of his character. It was a genuine pleasure to have worked alongside him and to learn so much from him. He was someone I sincerely admired and enjoyed spending time with, and I am certain I am by no means the only one to have felt that way. Rodolfo’s absence will be felt for a very long time to come, such was his contribution to the work of EDF and the atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie between us all. We will never forget him.

Rodolofo chairs our Committee on Sociall Policy
Rodolfo Cattani chaired our Social Policy and Inclusion Committee until recently.

 

 

Albert Prévos, EDF Board member, said:

Rodolfo’s decease is terrible news for all of us and for the whole disability movement, who were so honoured and fortunate to collaborate regularly and all the way with him.

It was such a pleasure to be with him. Like each of us, I appreciated his words and contributions, always wise and clairvoyant, his natural elegance in life in general as in our debates and his immense culture. I always had something to learn from him in our conversations, most of the time in French, that he liked to use and that he perfectly spoke.

His departure is a greatest loss for us as a precious and most valuable guide. His assessments were most respected, not only because Rodolfo was representing a powerful organisation, but also because he always proved equal to situations and incomparably clear.

We will all terribly miss Rodolfo and I deeply convey my sincere and profound condolences to his wife, always so close and careful to him, who was also so friendly to us,

 

Javier Guëmes, EDF Board member and Director at ONCE said:

Rodolfo was a leader and an authority in the disability movement. He could link history with the strategic future, he could use his vast culture to make pragmatic decisions, and he was wise to guide all those approaching for the first time the disability movement. I had the opportunity to share with him many trips and meetings all around Europe and enjoy with him, and Anna very heartfelt moments, I really appreciated his nice conversation and learnt so much from him. He has gone and has kept one secret, the way he was able to find the nicest restaurant wherever in the world (El Cairo, Azerbaijan or any other city) in order to have a warm, interesting and friendly discussion around a glass of wine. I will miss Rodolfo. Rest in peace;

Inmaculada Placencia-Porrero Senior Expert in the Unit for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the European Commission said:

Dear Rodolfo was a cornerstone in the European arena advancing the rights of persons with disabilities since the 90’s when I started working and learning from him. At the time, he was a pioneer with his interest in the area of accessibility in ICT but also in demanding non-discrimination legislation in the area. He was always ready to help at work and at a personal level. He was known for his personalised well-elaborated presentations. His presence – firm, elegant, polite, cult, and always kind – made an impact. His dedication was remarkable. His profound voice was heard, and his presence and personality caught the interlocutors’ attention. He managed a positive environment with his characteristic laugh and sympathy. He was always ready for a chat, always accompanied by his dear wife, prudent, kind, supportive and pleasant. I will miss his sharp and clever interventions and his warm company.

 

Pierre Gyselinck, on behalf of Action Européen des Handicapées said:

With the passing of Rodolfo, we at AEH send our deepest sympathy to his family.

He will be remembered as a fighter for the rights of people with disabilities in Italy, Europe and the World.

Rodolfo, thank you for you engagement, Rest in Peace.

 

The National Council of Disabled Organizations of Slovenia stated:

on the recent passing of Mr. Rodolfo Cattani, the National Council of Disabled Organizations of Slovenia (NSIOS) extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

 

Mental Health Europe added:

Mental Health Europe is very saddened to hear about the death of Rodolfo. He has dedicated his entire life to the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and his passing is a great loss to the whole disability movement. We will cherish memories of his remarkable accomplishments. His legacy will certainly strengthen our advocacy on the advancement of human rights.

 

Radu Sergiu Ruba, former board member of the European Blind Union, said:

There are no words to express my sadness and sorrow for Professor Rodolfo Cattani’s loss. A great friend, a bright light and a brave knight in our campaigns for equal chances, real rights and freedom left our world. We learnt from him the basic rules of our particular battles and diplomacy, he suggested us how to avoid risks and traps. Always ready to offer his support, Rodolfo used to take the plane and land where his brothers and sisters needed help in their difficult interactions with some domestic authorities. His biography tells the story of a life dedicated to the welfare of disabled persons, their justified rights and specific services. That’s why his presence was natural, normal and expected in each structure or body dealing with this kind of human values. His expertise was and will be an example for everybody in the area of disability.

Fortunately, I met him and Anna in May as a guest in their house in Monza. Rodolfo introduced me to the small local visually disabled community and their literary café, giving to my novel translated into Italian, English and Portuguese the chance to benefit from its first public reading in a foreign language. I’ll remember it forever. But Rodolfo did so many similar unforgettable things, with his smile, culture, humour and fellowship. My homage to Anna, who accompanied him and his issues, our issues.