Last Sunday, 2nd April, was World Autism Awareness Day, a day recognized internationally since 2008 to encourage countries around the world to take measures to raise awareness about people with autism, and those living with intellectual disabilities. World Autism Day is an important way to help the world better appreciate the need for compassion and acceptance for those living with autism, and since its inception autism awareness and research around the world has increased, and improved the quality of life for many.

There are an estimated 45 million EU citizens of working age with a disability, and approximately 15 million children have special educational needs; figures set to continue rising considering increasingly ageing populations on the continent. It is crucial therefore to continue working to find a way to meet the needs of people with autism and intellectual disabilities, so all people can contribute as active members to peaceful and prosperous societies with adequate social and health care services.

Since joining Eurodiaconia, I have been humbled to read about the efforts from among our membership to improve the lives of people living with disabilities and their families. Last week, The Reformed Diocese of Transylvania in Romania has been developing its dedicated residential center ‘Írisz Ház’. The home promotes accessibility, respect and acceptance of people with disabilities, and provides a comfortable living environment from which its residents can be involved in society, and church life. It is clear that Eurodiaconia members are raising much needed awareness of the situation by sharing their knowledge and experiences of working with people with intellectual disabilities, and the obstacles they face to enjoying their full rights.

I think that these actions, as well as helping to understand barriers to inclusion, help social and diaconal actors to identify how we can all work together to overcome the obstacles to autonomy and inclusion faced by persons with disabilities. Working to improve their quality of life all year round is vital to help to change attitudes, and ensure that all individuals feel empowered to fully participate in society and make an even stronger positive impact on our shared future.

Have a good weekend,