Brussels Express interviews Louis Gustin, who suffered an CVA a couple of years ago and who has set up a website to sensitise people to disabilities and challenges they face.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how the idea to be involved in disability issues came to mind.
I am 27 years-old, was born in Metz (France) and have studied Public law and EU law in Metz, Strasbourg and Warsaw on a 6-year course. I was suddenly subject to a CVA in February 2015. I suffered from aphasia and I was hemiperatic, which means I was partially paralysed (on the right side) and I could not speak anymore (both English and French). I was subject to re-education for one year and a half, which actually still goes on. It enabled me to speak again, but my right hand cannot move yet.
I have wanted to set up a website or a blog to sensitise the people to disability for a while. I aim to convince all the disabled people, especially the youngest ones, that life still goes on, although it requires a permanent determination. I finally made it in October 2017.
The website is called sadapter.eu and you can find interviews with MEPs and French public figures. I also aim to conduct interviews with French associations or stakeholders.
I will soon launch an organisation to reach my personal goals. I firstly aim to keep on having interviews both with famous and anonymous people. My second goal is to buy a van and travel across Europe to sensitise people to disability. I will of course have a stop in Belgium, where I have lived for one year and a half, and I’ll also pop down at the European Parliament to lobby some MEPs. I am dreaming about taking a picture with my van on the Simon Weil esplanade, in front of the European Parliament.
What is your vision of accessibility for disabled people in Brussels?
Brussels is the capital of the EU and it therefore should care about all the disabilities. I used to live in Ixelles along the Tram 81. I was able to take it, although it was quite hard, but this is not the case for the more disabled people.
Most of the trams (on the line 81) are old and have three stairs. There is also no platform to access the modern trams, which means no tram for disabled. I have met up with a Brusselian MP who recognised the non-accessibility of the trams. She has, however, not been able to act yet. Buses are accessible to disabled though.
Could you talk about European initiatives on disability?
First of all, directive of accessibility has been voted by the European Parliament in September 2017, which states all the products and services should be accessible to disabled people. For example, cash machines should be designed in a way to be accessible. There are Erasmus+ funds to provide projects with money.The European Disability Forum, a Brussels-based organisation, also pilots initiatives.
Do you think the EU institutions are a good example for integration and accessibility?
I think the European Parliament has a significant weight with regard to disabled. Some MEPs are deaf or are subject to other disabilities. I have met with some of them, such as Marek Plura (Polish) or Helga Stevens (Belgian). I have also met up with Sylvie Guillaume, Edouard Martin or Brando Benifei, who fight for better integration or accessibility.