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Commemorating the International Day of Persons with Disability (December 2016)

On the 3rd December, we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. For 2016 we welcome the theme "Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want".

The Saint Lazarus Foundation is a proud and active member of Inclusion International which has been linking the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability of the United Nations to the 2030 Agenda - in particular the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the beginning of the negotiations of the post 2015 agenda, as the CRPD serves as one of the most important frameworks for the implementation of the SDGs. We know that it is people with intellectual disabilities and their families that will bring the necessary expertise to achieving these 17 goals and building an inclusive future for all.

Today we stand in solidarity with the more than one billion people with disabilities living around the world and in partnership with our civil society colleagues working to make the CRPD and full inclusion in our communities a reality.

Today we celebrate people with intellectual disabilities and their families who bring richness and diversity to our communities. Our presence, our efforts, our voices are making a difference. While we know there is still much work to be done, each year we can mark progress and positive change for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

For too long we have been the left-behind of the left-behind. This year, we say no more. To achieve the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals we must ensure that, truly, no one is left behind. We can only do this by ensuring our voices are heard.

Brussels, 3 December - As we mark this year's International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), we are thinking of the hundreds of thousands of disabled people in Europe locked away in institutions, exposed to human rights abuses, segregated from their families and the rest of society, and with no control over their lives. We are also thinking of those disabled people unable to make basic choices, because of the lack of personal assistance, accessibility and legal capacity, among other.

The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL), of which the Saint Lazarus Foundation is an active member, advocates for the right to live independently and to be included in the community for all disabled people. We do so by raising concerns about the laws, policies and practices which go against Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In addition, we provide guidance to governments, service providers and organisations on how to move away from institutional care and develop community-based alternatives which facilitate the right to independent living. We advocate for disabled people's access to mainstream services, rather than the creation of parallel systems.

One such example of our work on de-institutionalization is the study visit to Sweden, organised in September for a group of disability activists and local authorities from Bulgaria, Spain and Lithuania. The film which came out of the study visit - which we are launching on the occasion of IDPD - summarises the key success factors for closing down institutions and replacing them with a system that facilitates inclusion and participation of disabled people in society.

We hope this film inspires disabled people advocating for de-institutionalization in their countries, and that it encourages authorities to create strategies based on a vision of independent living and community participation for all. We are grateful to Patrick Doodt for his pro bono work on the film, as well as to all those that made the study visit possible - the Stockholm Disability Ombudsperson, STIL, Sodexo, the National Board of Health and Welfare, Bosse, the Swedish Agency for Participation and the Stockholm Town Hall - Green Party. We wish to also thank the Open Society Foundations - Mental Health Initiative for supporting ENIL's work on Article 19 of the CRPD.

Press this link to see the short film:

European Parliament Political Groups leaders agree on strong actions to support disability rights:

Two days before the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December), the European Disability Forum, of which the Saint Lazarus Foundation is an active member, met with Presidents and top politicians of the main Political Groups in the European Parliament. Josef Weidenholzer (S&D Group Vice-President), Sabine Verheyen (EPP Coordinator in the Committee on Culture and Education), Syed Kamall (President of the ECR Group), Gabriele Zimmer (President of the GUE/NGL Group) and Ulrike Lunacek (Vice-President of the European Parliament, Greens/EFA) renewed the commitment of their Political Groups to support the rights of persons with disabilities in Europe, three years after the first high level meeting with EDF.

They all signed a declaration to take up a series of important initiatives in order to ensure the full inclusion of persons with disabilities and the enforcement of their rights. The declaration reflects their commitment to support:

  • the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation;
  • the adoption of a overarching and comprehensive EU strategy 2020-2030 for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD);
  • investment in promoting social inclusion of persons with disabilities, even in times of budgetary constraints;
  • the adoption of a strong and ambitious European Accessibility Act;
  • the organisation of the 4th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities in 2017;
  • making the 2019 European elections fully accessible to persons with disabilities;
  • mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities systematically in the EU refugee and migration legal framework and policy work;
  • the protection of the rights of women and girls with disabilities and the swift ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, including the banning of forced sterilisation in EU Member States.


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