A day at the EPPD for a young partially sighted person.

Last November and December I was welcomed as an intern at the executive office of the EBU in Paris. It was a fantastic experience to work with and for the EBU, not least because it enabled me to attend the European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities (EPPD) on 6 December, 2017.

The scale of the event was astonishing. It was held in the heart of the EU (Brussels) and attended by hundreds of people; the plenary hall was said hardly ever to have been as crowded as it was that day. Nonetheless, the organisation managed to provide personal attention and assistance when and where ever needed. The first activity of the day was a tour through the building of the European Parliament and a presentation containing basic information about the European Union and its functioning. Critical questions were raised and misunderstandings elucidated. Surprisingly, even after studying international relations and organisations for a few years, it was a very interesting part of the programme which I’m glad not to have missed. Although the presentation was formal, the interaction between the presenter and our ‘delegation’ resulted in fascinating insights!

Various interest groups attended the event, i.e. representatives of advocacy organisations and Members of the European Parliament. Most outstanding to me personally was an MEP who is deaf himself and also lead parts of the discussion rounds. It was great to see how he managed the crowd by means of a wooden hammer (instead of using hearing or speech) with such confidence and an everlasting friendly smile on his face.

The plenary whole (the Hemicycle) was impressive, but in my opinion the discussion rounds held in it somewhat less. The form was there, but content as in dialogue, specific critical remarks on policy or in more depth discussions was not as present as I had expected and hoped for. As we approached the end of the day, the hall counted perhaps solely 10% of its initial attendees. If I would guess, I’d say this might have been because the programme foremost contained people pleading for more inclusiveness and people explaining their vision for the future; a more inclusive society. In brief, however valuable each and every plea was, to my idea the programme had become somewhat repetitive and lacked in-depth dialogue that could have enabled more constructive discussions.

In spite, I do think it’s an important event to be held now and in the future. It focuses the necessary attention on what we all want; to be able to be part of and to participate in society, in particular for young people, who may become the decision makers of tomorrow. Additionally, it was a great experience to attend the EPPD as it allowed people to meet and speak with others from various generations and countries involved in this field and passionate about societal inclusiveness. Who knows what kind of fruitful collaborations might develop from this event?
By Frieda Dijkhof, student, international relations and organisations