End institutionalisation of disabled people in Europe!
End institutionalisation of disabled people in Europe!
Why this petition matters
If indeed it is a self-evident truth that all people are created equal, then we the undersigned simply ask that our equality be taken seriously.
The people of Europe may not be aware, but a tyrannical shadow walks our continent, indeed our world today. That shadow is the shade of institutionalisation. Let the following facts be observed, so that the concerns of this petition can be taken to heart and acted upon, swiftly and appropriately.
Countless disabled people are not given the chance to enjoy the equal right to life, liberty, equality, fraternity and the pursuit of happiness. We live in an inaccessible world, with numerous disabling barriers blocking us from reaching our dreams. Over 1 million disabled people in Europe alone, are incarcerated in some form of institution.
Many of us are trapped in large, medium or small institutions, whether they be care homes, psychiatric hospitals, day-care centres, sheltered workshops or sometimes a combination of several of those. In these prisons, where we were sent without having committed a known crime, except that we were either born with or developed physical and intellectual differences. We are often subjected to restricted living arrangements, such as enforced bedtime hours, limited social lives, with who we want to spend time, being controlled by the institutional authorities. If we are permitted to work, which is not always a given, we are often not paid a living wage or any wage whatsoever, and our employment takes the form of sheltered, highly regulated, and supervised workshops. Throughout the pandemic, many disabled people have been trapped in these institutions, many of us have died. Others have experienced severe social isolation and mental illness due to a lack of connection with the outside world. This alone is evidence that this system cannot be allowed to outlive this current decade.
Sometimes even worse abuses take place, for instance, sexual assault and murder. In Portugal, it has been alleged, a woman was raped by the director of one of these institutions. While in Germany, just one month later, in May 2021, an employee at one of these jailhouses murdered four disabled people and seriously injured a fifth. These are not just isolated incidents, where a few bad people do bad things, it is a systematic problem. For if there exists a situation where some people have power and others do not, the temptation or potential to abuse that power will forever be present.
We also need to have accessible living conditions in mainstream society, to enable us to escape the bastilles. Without personal assistance, accessible housing, or accessible pavements and public transport, a majority of disabled people will end up imprisoned. This is the case in France, for example.
This is a problem that is being enabled by EU funds, which are used to finance the creation and sustaining of these jails. The United Nations has told several European countries, most recently Hungary, that they are in systematic breach of human rights law by continuing to operate these prisons, while in Austria, disabled children are being taken from their parents in Tyrol and locked in what are effectively jails!
Meanwhile, Poland is going ahead with the building of new institutions with the aid of EU funds and the Czech Republic is slated to open new institutions in the summer of 2023.
The European Commission says it is committed to closing down institutions and helping disabled people to live freely in their chosen communities, however in reality it puts money towards building smaller institutes that are mushrooming up across the continent. A smaller prison is still a prison!
We demand the right to live independently, which means living in a way that benefits our hopes, wants, needs and dreams. If we require assistance due to limitations caused by our individual impairments, then we should have a support system of personal assistants, friends or family around us. The answer is not to stick us in one of these prisons. We want to be recognized as citizens of our respective nations, instead of being objects of charity and bonus good deed for the day options for non-disabled people.
We also call for a more accessible society, which will greatly increase our ability to achieve independent living. This will ultimately be better for everyone. Therefore, we ask the people of Europe to read, share and sign this petition, for if enough of you raise your voices, the walls of these prisons will inevitably fall.
Anyone can become disabled at any time. This is not said to scare the reader, it is merely a stated fact. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. The problem is the lack of freedom that we as a people currently experience.
Therefore, we insist upon the:
1. Closure of institutions, whether they be large, medium or small.
2. Properly funded personal assistance to support us with independent living in communities of our choice
3. Affordable and accessible housing.
4. Properly funded social security to act as a safety net.
5. Properly funded and adapted transport systems of trains, buses, trams, etc. This needs to be done in any case, due to the impending threat of climate change, but it will also greatly help the mobility of disabled people.
6. An end to the discrimination of disabled people when it comes to work opportunities. No more sheltered workshops, which often go hand-in-hand with institutions for disabled people, where disabled people are given useless and irrelevant tasks to do, for either a token wage that is not enough to live on or no wage at all. Fund properly supported employment schemes for disabled people, which will increase their likelihood of avoiding institutionalisation, in line with article 27 of the United Nations Convention On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities (UNCRPD).
7. Accessible infrastructure such as ATM’s with audio and large screens, wheelchair ramps for buildings, braille signage, sign language interpreter’s at events, quiet spaces in bars, restaurants, pubs, public buildings etc, so that people who feel acute sensory overload can take a break. These accessible reforms, which should be mandated in law, will enable more disabled people to enjoy integration in the wider community and drastically reduce their risk of institutionalisation.
8. Acknowledgement from international, national, and local authorities that there is a pandemic of institutionalisation.
9. The suspension of EU funds to member states who misuse those funds (such as the European Social Fund+/ESF+) on institutions. And pledges from member states that EU funds will only be spent in line with the UNCRPD and EU Charter On Fundamental Rights, which are both incompatible with institutionalisation.
10. A pledge from political parties across the continent (those in power and those who are not) to campaign on behalf of independent living principles and demand Independent Living legislation.
11. Full implementation of the UNCRPD and its General Comments, to ensure a just end to the inhumane practice of institutionalisation. This especially means government must enact legislation based around article 19 of the UNCRPD which guarantees disabled people a right to live independently.
12. An end to punitive measures that punish disabled people such as austerity economics, and cuts to transport, housing, accessible technology, personal assistance etc, essential tools that disabled people need to enjoy independent lives.
Free Our People!
COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor report on the rights of disabled people during the pandemic (2020), https://enil.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Disability-Rights-During-the-Pandemic-report_web-PDF.pdf
A report about the alleged assault in Portugal (in Portuguese), https://www.rtp.pt/noticias/pais/cerci-beja-diretor-detido-por-abuso-sexual-de-utente-com-deficiencia_v1321938?fbclid=IwAR1zt7kS46RKwrbsAXO6G3IiMK9iqsKMnBigO0CeNf7hE4s5Go_-Dv_Deb4
A news article on the killings in Germany, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/four-people-found-dead-at-german-care-home-employee-detained-1.4551083
Convention on the Prevention Of Torture (1984) https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CAT.aspx
A video presentation on disability rights in France, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EXQAvXZle8
ENIL report on EU funds https://enil.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Study_EP_EN_09122020.pdf
ENIL and ILA (Independent Living Austria) joint complaint about the situation in Tyrol, https://enil.eu/news/press-release-disability-groups-file-second-complaint-against-austria-for-eu-funds-misuse/
Statement on institutions in Poland, https://deinstitutionalisationdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/eeg-statement-on-poland-institutions-sweet-sweet-home-2021.pdf
News article on the planned institutions in the Czech Republic (in Czech), https://odbor-socialni.kraj-lbc.cz/aktuality/domov-raspenava-ceka-na-obnovu-klienti-se-tam-nastehuji-v-roce-2023-n1095382.htm?fbclid=IwAR2feiUYjlVluJWB_225VTNoh6WHnXvAQk0mTpMGacRsKTcjOKNvSFHfhIk
The EU’s 2021-2030 European Disability Strategy (EDS), https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=738&langId=en&pubId=8376&furtherPubs=yes
European Disability Forum (EDF) Independent living and de-institutionalisation policy – European Disability Forum (edf-feph.org)
European Disability Forum (EDF) Facebook Post For European Day Of Independent Living (2020) (1) European Disability Forum – Posts | Facebook