Since the First Independent Living Congress was held in Spain (Tenerife, 2003), people with functional diversity who were ideologically linked to the Independent Living Movement have been observing that, despite the difficulties and the obstacles of all kinds at different levels, the demand for freedom and dignity implicit in this philosophy are slowly consolidating in collective consciousness. However, the medium and long-term effects of an altered demography, the ever so less spaced economic crises striking our collective, and the gradual privatization and commercialization of social services -in which the hegemonic artifact of the status quo of disability is a player-, push us to stop and reflect. What should be the direction and the peculiarities that must have the inclusive and liberating policies for men and women with disability? What challenges and difficulties does this inevitable journey include? Is there a similarity and affinity across Europe that gives orientation to this challenge…?

This Congress wants to be a necessary pause to try to provide answers to these questions, to gain awareness, to free ourselves from external thought patterns, to gather proposals, wills, actions and alternatives. It wants to be an environment of critical reflection with the purpose of being able to sketch, from within that critical reflection, key inclusive policies, taking as a gravitational centers personal autonomy and full equality in civil rights. An exercise of respect to individuality and human diversity of which we all are a part.

It can be said that the Independent Life Movement in Spain has made its way through the barriers of the monolithic framework of “disability” since 2001. It does so through the Internet on the platform of the “Foro de Vida Independiente”, a citizen group, free and open that tries to welcome the concerns and expectations of all those men and women who have chosen to make human rights and social activism inseparable without hierarchies or client structures. Its dynamic cemented the aforementioned first Independent Living Congress, but the propagation of that ideology, the network and cooperative work also reached the misnamed Law of Dependency in order to make it permeable to the revitalizing airs for the rights of people with functional diversity, to opt for an independent life within the community, to access personal assistance… The sit-in of activists in the IMSERSO building in Madrid in 2006 marked a milestone and stressed that the determination and intransigence to control and the decline in individual freedom and civil rights are attitudes that the subsequent development of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has upheld to this day.

This Second Congress aims to expose the experience of over 15 years of work, of successes and mistakes to learn from, and that have meant substantial changes in the lives of many people. Slowly, but with determination, the OVIs (Independent Living Offices), similar to the CIL (Center for Independent Living) in other countries, continue to spread throughout the state. They try to make of peer support a barrier to commercialism and to the control of the most obsolete associative estates over the lives of others. From this activism have been born visible experiences of Personal Assistance, legislative changes have been promoted or self-defense organizations such as SOLCOM or FEVI have been formed as an instrument of political influence.

This balance would be meaningless if it did not offer, at the same time, a scenario on which to challenge the future in the medium and long term, or be the dissident voice at the bottom of the pyramid of the traditional associative movement. Thus, without limiting any other perspective, the axes of this Congress that are open to general participation, may well be specified in these points:

  • To learn, analyze and debate strategies for the future of the Independent Living Movement in Europe, the tools that can help to define a model in accordance with the European social culture in this field. We are very interested in reflections on the future in the face of the dismantling of the Welfare State and social services for disability in Europe, and in particular, in Spain. The cyclical economic crises and the impact on our collective…
  • Strategies for political activism for Independent Living and de-institutionalization; the stimulation of the awareness of people with disabilities and the necessary legislative changes (both European and national) A law for the independent life of people with disabilities …?
  • Assessment of the establishment of PERSONAL ASSISTANCE (PA) systems, their functioning and the future role of the Independent Living Offices, Its impact on the structures of the social services of the state, on the users, on the regulatory procedures …
  • Recap, experiences, analysis and critical evaluation, in a political and social key after more than a decade of presence of the ILM in Spain. A reflection on the model we want to build.