European Disability Forum Conference and Board Meeting takes place in Dublin

November 21 2022, 10:15am

EDF Conference 3 pic by Brenda Drumm DFI

'From signing the Disability Rights Convention to achieving equality before the law' was the title of a half day conference which was hosted under the umbrealla of the European Disability Forum (EDF) as part of their board meeting which took place in Dublin on Saturday 19 November. 

Background to the conference

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is one of the most widely signed and ratified international human rights conventions, including every EU member state and the European Union itself. It outlines the range of measures that governments need to put in place to ensure equal rights and articulate very clearly the importance of meaningful participation of persons with disabilities through their representative organisations.  Equality before the law is an important part of having full rights in society, and yet this remains far from reality for people with disabilities everywhere.  

Archaic laws in Europe still persist, these allow for the denial of the right to vote and stand for election, the denial of the right to decide for yourself to consent to medical treatment, to sign a contract or manage your own money. These archaic laws can be found all around the world.  This conference explored how well we advanced towards equality before the law in line with article 12 of the CRPD, which barriers still exist and how we can work together to make equality before the law a reality.  

Conference proceedings  

EDF Conference 4 pic by Brenda Drumm DFIThe conference was opened by Grainne O'Leary Vice Chairperson, Disability Federation of Ireland, Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, Erin McGreehan, Senator and Representative of the Oireachtas Disability Matters Committee and Gerard Quinn, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilites.  In her address Grainne shared her appreciation for the work. She said, "We appreciate the ongoing advocacy and many successes brought about through your work over the past 25 years for disabled people. Your work is a valuable and necessary support to our work here as your Irish National Council member. We rely on your work to assist us.  

"We know, through Ireland's members of the European Parliament and otherwise, that EDF is a very well regarded and effective disabled persons voice across the EU and at UN level. You have earned a strong reputation as the Secretariat of and disability movements advocate within the European Parliament Disability Inter Group. 

"Our Board is very appreciative of the outstanding contribution that EDF continues to make and particularly following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  My Board colleague Pat Clarke and our CEO John Dolan keep us up to date on this and other matters."


Panel Discussion

EDF Conference 2 by Brenda Drumm DFIThe conference continued with a panel discussion moderated by John Dolan CEO of the DFI with contributions from Markus Schefer on Evolution in European countries – view from the UN CRPD Committee.

The panel continued with Niall Brunnell, Principle Officer for Disability Policy, Department of Children, Equality Disability, Integration and Youth who spoke about the Assisted Decision Making Act 2015. 

Aine Flynn, Director of Supported Decision-Making Service spoke about the legal capacity and supported decision making in Ireland- the path to emancipation. Lively discussion and questions came from the floor from a number of delegates with the voice of the elf-advocate very much to the fore. 

The conference then heard an update from EDF members from Austria, France, Germany, Iceland and Portugal on ongoing developments and the sharing of some promising examples of supported decision-making.   


EDF Conference 5 by Brenda Drumm DFI


Pat Clarke, EDF Vice President had the task of summing up the conference proceedings which he descrived as fruitful with many important issues being engaged. 

This was the third occasion over the past decade where DFI has welcomed the membership and Board of EDF to Dublin.

You can watch our series of Tik Tok Videos from the conference here: 

John Dolan, DFI 

Pat Clarke, EDF 

Vera Bonvalot, Portugal 

Markus Shefer, Member UN CRPD 

Grainne O'Leary, Vice-Chair, DFI 

Catherine Naughton, Director EDF

You can find out more about the work of the European Disability Forum here European Disability Forum (