NOVEMBER 2003 - ELSA Official Anita Blom speaks at the Disabled People's Parliament, hosted by the European Parliament in Brussels...


The European Parliament hosted a Disabled People's Parliament Event on 10-11 November 2003 at the Hemicycle in Brussels. The Event marked the 10th Anniversary of the United National Standard Rules and the European Year of Disabled People 2003.

ELSA was invited to this event and Anita Blom attended and gave a presentation. To read it, click here.


Why a Disabled People's Parliament?

On 3 December 1993, under the Helios II programme of the European Commission, a disabled people's parliament was held for the first time in Brussels. It was also the first date of the annual celebration of the “European Day of Disabled People”

Ten years later, in the framework of the European Year of People with Disabilities and in commemoration of the launching of the UN Standard Rules in 1993, the European Parliament has agreed to held a similar event in Brussels. An initiative that allows the European Parliament to demonstrate its support to the disability agenda and to show to the European disability movement and others what it has done to progress the aims and objectives of the European Year of People with Disabilities.

The Disabled People's Parliament will act as a platform for personal testimonies from disabled persons and their families on the developments made, and problems still experienced, by disabled persons since the adoption of the UN Standard Rules in 1993. Moreover, it will provide a political focus for 2003 and input from the directly elected representatives of the EU for concrete follow up actions to the European Year and develop innovative ideas to progress the disability policy at EU level.

The outcomes:

The Disabled People's Parliament was chaired by a disability representative and led by the disability movement, although the 'format' of the event was that of a proper European Parliament Plenary session with interventions from the floor.

Participants included a mix of disability representatives (organisations of disabled people) and European Parliamentarians as well as some other stakeholder groups, other EU institutions and social NGOs etc.

Four major outcomes were:

  • a Resolution or Declaration to feed into the EP own-initiative report on the European Year 2003;
  • a Manifesto by the Disability Movement to the European Parliament regarding the elections in 2004 with a view that it should be recognized and taken up in the manifestos of the political parties
  • a Conference report to include testimonies of disabled persons of Europe.
  • a presentation of good practice examples of the work of Parliaments in advocating for disability issues (e.g. through structures such as Disability Intergroups).

10th November 2003

The European Parliament hosted a Disabled People's Parliament Event on 10-11 November 2003 at the Hemicycle in Brussels. The Event marked the 10th Anniversary of the United National Standard Rules and the European Year of Disabled People 2003.

ELSA was invited to this event and Anita Blom attended and gave the following presentation at the plenary session:

My name is Anita Blom and I have a disability. Many barriers have been taken away this week to make it possible for all disabled citizens to be an active participant at this important meeting. But not my barrier. One month ago my struggle started. From the day the speaking request form reached my hands I was terrified.

Weeks in advance I needed special mental and physical training. To even dare to get here. To make my way on stage. To make my speech. To not listen to the voice inside that reminds me I cannot do this. To force my body to make my disability as little as possible. For, ladies and gentlemen, I had only three minutes of speaking time. And I stutter…

Nobody knows the cause of stuttering. There is no general cure. The severity of my stutter depends not only on me, my mood, time pressure and other stress factors, it also depends on my listener. Your mood, your time pressure and your stress. My disability is not just my speech. It's my fear of showing my disability. It's my fear of speaking. My fear of rejection, shame and guilt, because my disability makes you uncomfortable and demands an effort from you as a listener.

To be given the same speaking time, just like anyone else in this audience, has nothing to do with ill-will. It is about not knowing what my disability is all about. But now, after explaining my speaking problem, my time has increased to 4 minutes. So here I stand, trying desperately to keep control of my fluency, so that I won't exceed my extended time limit. Still I am a bad example, as those who have a severe stutter cannot even say their names. Cannot even say hello and will avoid all ways of social interaction what so ever.

...Besides stuttering, there are hundreds of other disabilities that are unknown, unseen or even unaccepted. As long as our disabilities are not acknowledged as being disabilities, sometimes not even among other disability groups, there won't be help, research or laws protecting us. Instead of being ashamed and try to hide our disabilities we should be proud of being the people we are, despite, or maybe even, thanks to our disability. But people who stutter will hardly speak for themselves. Many will hardly speak at all. And people with stomach disease, people who cannot read or write, people with psoriasis, people with allergies, and people with other hidden disabilities, what do we know about them? Are they here? If not, why not?

2003 has been the Year of People with Disabilities. The blind were seen, the deaf were heard and the immobile mobilized. But the unknown are still unknown. The unseen are still not seen. And the silent are still not heard. The impact of the Year is not coming to an end, it brings a new beginning. A new start where all disabilities find a place, a face and a voice, with focus on the diversity of disabilities, our needs and our strength to make the invisible visible and to give us all a voice. We too need to be seen. We too need to be heard.

Our proposed demand for political action is therefore:

To acknowledge, include and consult ALL people with disabilities i.e. to also make the invisible visible. Don't talk about us. Talk with us.

Thank you.

The International Stuttering Association
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