Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Recently I was in Norway at a board meeting of the European Network on Independent Living. Usually our meetings are held using skype but once a year we get together face-to-face. I took the opportunity to take part in the annual Disability Freedom March in Oslo that was organised by ULOBA, the Norwegian centre for independent living.
Let me tell you something about ULOBA which really is quite and inspirational organisation. Not only does it support disabled people to have personal assistants but is also active in disability issues nationally and internationally. They have fully accessible offices and have their own transport that they call their freedom bus. It can seat 30 people including 12 wheelchair users. It goes everywhere including to the biannual Freedom Drive that takes place in Strasbourg, France to lobby members of the European Parliament. The next one will be taking place in September 2013 so watch this space, we will be telling you more about it nearer the time.
Over 1,000 disabled people gathered together for the march. Given that Norway only has a population of 5m, mostly scattered in small communities, this was a pretty good turnout. Everyone wore bright green T shirts with the slogan ‘Proud, Strong and Visible’ emblazoned on them. It was a great atmosphere with most people shouting slogans in Norwegian and a few of us shouting in English!
The march served to demonstrate to all those watching that disabled people are here, we are not hiding away, and we demand to be able to be active, equal citizens. Although there have been many steps forward there is still some way to go. Disabled people in Norway are not facing quite the scale of cutbacks being experience by disabled people in the UK but they still face an uphill battle, for example Norway has only just ratified the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities.
It was a great feeling of solidarity amongst disabled people and of course the world needs constantly reminding that we are here insisting on our right to equality. Is it time we had a freedom march in the UK perhaps?
Sue Bott - Development Director - Disability Rights UK
Posted by radar at 12:38