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Disability Voice


Nujeen Mustafa with her assistant

Fleeing Syria in a wheelchair 

My name is Nujeen Mustafa and I am 18 years old. I am from Syria and I grew up in Aleppo. When the war started, we could not evacuate easily because of my disability, particularly as we were living on the 5th floor of a building with no elevator. I felt like I was a barrier for the safety of my family. Everybody was trying to be strong for me. It was very stressful and depressing. Our worst fear was that the army would break into the city and that we wouldn’t be able to leave after that, so we fled. It turned out to be a wise decision.  We first fled to Turkey and in August 2015, crossed the Mediterranean sea, got to Greece and from there to Germany.

‘Why did you bring her?’, people wondered with surprise and shock. There was even a debate whether we should bring my wheelchair on the boat because it would be too heavy. I was told I was the first person in wheelchair to arrive in Greece. Camps are hastily built and nobody expects that people with disabilities will be coming.

The camp in Moria in Lesbos, Greece, was not accessible so I had to change camps. But everyone who arrives in Lesbos must go to Moria first. I was lucky not to stay there long. Many other people with disabilities have to stay there much longer than me. As a refugee with disability you have to be a good “bladder holder”, as you don’t find many accessible toilets. For example, I couldn't use the toilets in Moria because there were no ramps. The terrain was also very bumpy and I got bruises. People think you’re sitting comfortable in your wheelchair doing nothing. As a matter of fact, it really hurts. If there was a slope, I was afraid to roll out of my wheelchair. We also had to sleep outdoors on cardboard boxes. 

Like all people with disabilities, I am often told that I can’t do anything, but so far I have proven everyone wrong. Refugees with disabilities, like all other people, deserve to have access to services, like toilets and showers in the camps. These are simple things. People with disabilities should be considered in conflict situation, as well as in normal daily life. Our needs are not different in daily life than in conflict. I feel lucky that I now have a normal life in Germany. I go to school and I can dream of my future again. But there are still so many other refugees with disabilities in camps facing the same barriers to access even basic services. They should not be forgotten or ignored. 

Nujeen Mustafa 


Ireland: UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities still not ratified

Activists in Ireland calling for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

30 March 2017 marked 10 years since Ireland signed the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). However, Ireland remains the only Member State of the European Union (EU) that has not yet ratified the CRPD meaning that the CRPD has not yet entered into force in Ireland. Together with our Irish members, the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), we sent a letter to Ireland’s Prime Minister calling on the ratification of the CRPD and the implementation of its principles and obligations to promote and protect the rights of its citizens with disabilities. DFI also organised a demonstration outside the Irish Parliament. 

Sustainable Development GoalsEnsuring that no one is left behind

On 30 March 2017, the European Union (EU) presented its draft indicators measuring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the European level. EDF was invited to the event to bring the perspective of persons with disabilities. We drew attention on the importance of leaving no person with disability behind and on having concrete indicators on disability.

EDF issued a position paper calling on the EU to systematically disaggregate data by disability, to bring back the references on disability in the EU indicators on SDGs as it was in the United Nations (UN) global indicators, to lead in the application of the obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the context of the SDGs and to ensure the participation of persons with disabilities throughout the process.

Yannis Yallouros at the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction

European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction

Last week the 2017 European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction took place in Istanbul. Yannis Yallouros, member of EDF Executive Committee, took part in the Forum, and in the drafting committee for the outcome document.

The outcome document pays specific attention to persons with disabilities, calling on authorities ‘to include people with disabilities, refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups of people in national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction through a participatory and human rights-based approach’.

Banner saying 'Break barriers together for autism'Building an accessible society without barriers for autism

On World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April 2017, Autism Europe is seeking to promote the removal of common barriers faced by people on the autism spectrum. Its 2017 campaign is accompanied by a global call for action to European decision-makers, other interested stakeholders and the general public. The campaign calls on them to acknowledge the barriers experienced by autistic people, and to work together with people on the spectrum, their families and their representative organisations, in order to remove them.

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Editor: Lila Sylviti
Contributors: Etienne Cuche | Marie Denninghaus | Loredana Dicsi | An-Sofie Leenknecht | Laura Marchetti | Alejandro Moledo | Catherine Naughton | Marion Steff | Ernesto Zaccaria

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