The European Independent Living Day is an annual event to raise awareness about the right to Independent Living and its importance for disabled people. This was launched in 2014 by the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) with whom the Malta Federation of Organisations Persons with Disability (MFOPD) is affiliated.
This year’s theme chosen by ENIL is LIBERTY. ENIL states ‘we want to raise awareness about the fact that disabled people are often deprived of their liberty, in different ways. It can be people living in institutions, group homes or nursing homes, or isolated at home without the support they need to live independently.’
What does liberty mean?
Liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behaviour or political view. Anything which is compulsory would interfere with individual liberty. Personal Assistance is liberty.
Personal Assistance is a tool which allows for independent living. With Personal Assistance, persons with disability are in control and decide what is to be done, who is to work, and how, when and where the work is to be carried out ; they can take their rightful place in the family, community and society as full citizens ; they can make their own decisions and choices. Personal Assistance enables persons with disability to live.
Unfortunately the Covid-19 is affecting the liberty of persons with disability. Physical distancing, self-isolation and other emergency measures need to take account the needs of persons with disability who rely on support networks essential for their survival. Some of whom may experience significant stress with confinement. The State should ensure that persons with disability and their families are not left without support.
In her report at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council (2019), Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities says that ‘the deprivation of liberty on the basis of impairment is a human right violation on a massive global scale. It is not a “necessary evil” but a consequence of the failure of States to ensure their human rights obligations towards persons with disability’.