Back to all news

Call for action on learning disability rights across Europe as activists gather for conference

EIA Website (1)

Enable celebrates 70 years of action on rights by hosting “Europe in Action 2024” Conference

Scotland’s leading charity for people with learning disabilities is celebrating its 70th anniversary of campaigning for their rights by hosting a major European conference on increasing equality for 20 million people with learning disabilities and their families. The conference, co-hosted by Enable and Inclusion Europe at the University of Strathclyde from May 7th to 9th during Scottish Learning Disability Week, brings together people with learning disabilities who are self-advocates for campaigns on their rights in countries across Europe.

Inclusion Europe represents people with learning disabilities in 39 countries. 400 people will attend the conference which will share learning from a range of expert speakers on progress in Scotland, other European countries and beyond to promote the inclusion of people with learning disabilities in our society. The conference will also highlight areas where action on rights is still urgently required following research published recently by Inclusion Europe which shows that:

In 26 countries, people with learning disabilities can have their legal capacity stripped away, removing their right to make their own decision regarding finances, living arrangements, and marriage.

750,000 people with learning disabilities are confined in harmful segregated institutions, while an additional 39,000 ‘live’ in psychiatric hospitals.

While 1.1 million children with learning disabilities are included in mainstream schools, 700,000 are still segregated in specialist schools, and 20,000 receive no education at all.

The “Inclusion Indicators” report shows Scotland is ranked 4th in the continent and is a leader in Europe for its inclusion of people with learning disabilities in their communities.

Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport Maree Todd will address the conference on how the Scottish Government is seeking to promote further progress for people with learning disabilities through policies including increasing access to social care in communities and employability support. Other highlights of the conference include people with learning disabilities from Ukraine sharing how they have struggled as a result of Russia’s invasion, and a performance by Lung Ha Theatre Company with scenes from their play Castle Lennox describing the historic traumatic experiences of people in institutional care.

Enable CEO Theresa Shearer said:

“We are privileged to welcome people with learning disabilities from across Europe who are championing change in their own countries as we celebrate 70 years of Enable members successfully fighting for their rights to be included in our society.  We have the opportunity to share with our European partners our experience of developing human rights-based services and support for people with learning disabilities in Scotland.  We look forward to learning from the experiences of colleagues abroad and from international experts so we can make even greater progress in our work to ensure Scotland is a place where rights are made real for the people we support.”

Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport Maree Todd MSP said:

“This conference is a key milestone for Enable as they celebrate their 70th anniversary. Scotland is among the leaders in Europe for the inclusion of people with learning disabilities in their communities. However there is always more that we can do to improve the outcomes for people with a learning disability and we will continue to listen and to learn from those with learning disabilities and partners like Enable.”

President of Inclusion Europe Jyrki Pinomaa said:

“We want to end segregation. We want people with intellectual disabilities to be able to live where everybody else lives, live in the community, be part of the community, as equal citizens, as equal human beings. To make this happen, we need legislation that makes it possible. But it is not enough. To make this a reality, we need to first challenge and then change disability policies throughout Europe. We are pleased Enable is hosting our conference in Glasgow as a valued member of Inclusion Europe as we work together to create an inclusive Europe for people with learning disabilities.”

Enable Membership Ambassador Heather Gilchrist said:

“I think it’s fantastic Europe in Action 2024 is coming to Glasgow. I’m excited to have the chance to meet other self-advocates from across Europe and share with them the experiences of people with learning disabilities here. I think it’s important to share experiences, facts and ideas and work together to make life better for people with learning disabilities wherever they live in Europe.”