The Disability History Touring Exhibit (DHTE), consisting of 29 panels of timelines, photos, poems and explanatory texts arranged in triangular-shaped stands, aims to dispel stereotypes regarding disability and to offer a new way of thinking.
Opening the exhibition, Silvana Koch-Mehrin (ALDE, DE), EP Vice-President and chair of the High-Level Group on Gender Equality and Diversity, said "this is the perfect place to open this exhibition because the EP is very committed to standing up for equality, diversity and the rights of participation for people with disabilities".
"It is important that we learn from mistakes made in the past", she said, "we want to remove all kinds of barriers that still exist, from technical obstacles to behavioural ones."
"There has been some improvement in the last few decades... but much work must still be done to improve the rights and participation of people with disabilities", she said.
Indeed one sign of this improvement is the presence of Ádám Kósa (EPP, HU), who in the last European Elections in June 2009 became the first deaf member of the European Parliament. He is able to participate in meetings thanks to a translator, an arrangement which is fascinating to see in action.
The exhibition was on display in the Liaison building space, 1st floor, WIC during the Strasbourg session and will now embark on a tour of the other EP buildings. Details below:
Strasbourg: 24 - 26 November 2009, Liaison building space, 1st floor, WIC
Brussels : 8 - 10 December 2009, Bar Forum space, 3rd floor, ASP
Luxembourg: 14 - 17 December 2009, Exhibition space, 1st floor, KAD
This week also saw the European Community ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a move which the European Disability Forum has described as an "unprecedented step forward for the first human rights treaty ratified in the history of Europe and a great signal sent to all EU Members States."
"This ratification represents a major policy shift toward enforcing human rights obligations and putting disability on top of the human rights agenda," reads the statement, continuing to state that "this is the first time in the European Union history that the Community is going to accede to an international human rights treaty."
The European Disability Forum (EDF), an umbrella organisation representing the interests of 65 million citizens with disabilities in Europe, hopes that this "is only the beginning of a new relationship between the EU and the UN".