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AE representative, Ben Rowsome, shares his experience at the European Youth Event 2023

In June, Ben Rowsome was part of the European Disability Forum (EDF) Youth Committee delegation that participated in the European Youth Event (EYE) 2023 at the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg (France). Ben notably raised awareness of accessibility issues for disabled people by recording a professional video at the EP and moderated the panel ‘Working in Europe. Accessible for all?  on June 10th. Attendees discussed the employment situation of persons with disabilities in Europe. The EYE 2023 brought together more than 10.000 young people from all over Europe. Ben shares his experience at this high-level event.

“On the 9th and 10th of June, I attended the European Youth Event 2023 (EYE2023) in Strasbourg, France, alongside my fellow disability advocates within the Youth Committee of the European Disability Forum (EDF). We had the privilege of being in the European Parliament itself for the event, so it was quite an incredible experience all in all.

On the morning of the first day, we attended the opening session in the hemicycle, where we got to associate ourselves with the other young people of Europe and had the honour of hearing the President of the European Parliament herself, Roberta Metsola. Mrs. Metsola spoke definitively and passionately about the solidarity within Europe, and moreover emphasised the importance of the role that the young people of Europe are playing right now.

Towards the afternoon, I had the great fortune of being able to make a professional video describing how we can make events like EYE2023 more accessible for people with disabilities. This has always been a major interest of mine, as I mentioned the sheer importance of preparing everything in advance, greeting your attendees at the door, and getting feedback after the event. I did two takes, both of which came out very well, and frankly I was delighted to have done it. 

Late afternoon, I attended the first of two events that were being organised by the EDF – “Know Your Rights!” Hosted by my fellow colleagues Loredana Dicsi and Lydia Vlagsma, the session outlined how we can tell if the rights of people with disabilities are being denied, and the discrepancies between the charity, medical and social models. This was an extremely informative workshop, from which I believe everybody took a lot away.

 In the late morning of the second day, I moderated the panel for the second of the two EDF events – “Working in Europe – Accessible for All?” As part of this event, we had some incredible panellists speaking about disability rights and experiences relating to the workplace, including fellow colleagues Loredana Dicsi, Elias Tebibel (Chair of the Youth Committee) and Tamara Byrne, as well as Slovakian advocate Michal Homolo, and MEP Dragos Pislaru. It was a privilege to have drunk in all their wisdom, and I took a great deal away from the session despite not even being an audience member per se!

It was an august experience all round albeit overwhelming at times – as someone with autism, it was often difficult to find my way around (there wasn’t a whole lot in the way of signposting), and with so many people in one space (there were allegedly over 10,000 attendees in all), it often became quite disorientating as well. Given that it was my first European Youth Event, I think I still took a lot away, and the next time around I’ll hopefully be able to navigate it better, attend some more events, see the EYE Village properly, etc. Of course, making events like these more autism-friendly is a personal goal of mine now!”

For more information, we invite you to read this EDF´s article