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UNAPEI: a look into the life of persons with severe disabilities in France

Earlier this month, two French television channels broadcast documentaries about the challenges that children with severe disabilities face in France with regards to access to appropriate treatment.

M6’s Zone Interdite highlighted on the 19 January 2014 program that France lacks sufficient options for persons with disabilities. Therefore, families are often forced to send their loved ones far from home in order to receive required treatment. This leaves a vulnerable population open to abuse, inhumane treatment, sometimes even electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and the families are unaware.

A second documentary entitled ‘Mon fils, un si long combat’ (My son, a long fight) aired 21 January 2014 as part of le Monde en Face on France 5. It provides a view into what life is like for parents of children with severe disabilities. Eglantine Éméyé describes the battle it has been to give her 8 year old the life he deserves. 

With these documentaries, the treatment of people with severe disabilities is being brought to the attention of the French public and Unapei (National Union of Associations of parents of persons with intellectual disabilities and their friends) hopes the images will spark necessary changes. Christel Prado, president of Unapei states, ‘The acts of abuse are intolerable, but fortunately far from being the majority in France. This is the reason for my voluntary commitment: to be at the heart of the system to act and defend our children against any attack on their dignity. This is the fight that Unapei and parental associations have lead for over 50 years by providing appropriate responses.’

Established in 1960, the National Union of Associations of parents of persons with intellectual disabilities and their friends (UNAPEI) is a French association working for the representation and advocacy of people with intellectual disabilities and is a member of EASPD.