"People have so much knowledge!"

Catherine is a 56-year-old woman from Toulouse, a major city in southwestern France. She graduated as a lawyer and now works as an insurer in the injury litigation department of an insurance company. For the past 30 years, she has been dealing with disability issues on a daily basis through taking statement from people who have lived through road traffic accidents, home-related accidents or even medical accidents.

“People have so much knowledge!”

Before the Citizens’ Debate, Catherine did not know APF France handicap, which did not prevent her from agreeing to take part in the Debate: “I said yes straight away!” By being part of this adventure, Catherine testified to the difficulties she encounters when lives are shattered in a moment, but also to underline the obstacle course that people often have to face after injuries: getting the right information and the right carers for example.

She also makes the link with the political and economic life of France:

“Social protection is a permanent issue. Rethinking it is not a fear of the future but an ideology of defending people’s rights.

But Catherine is worried: “For 30 years I have seen the evolution of the scheme, the health insurance business, medical desertions: the situation is dramatic! For her, our social protection system is essential and precious, but it needs to be refocused and revamped to adjust public spending as well as possible, in particular to create new jobs related to disability support. For these reasons she places a lot of emphasis on the Debate and the implementation of the proposals at political level. Her initial fears were that the Debate would be biased in favour of certain measures. In the end, she finds the quality of the Debate and the depth of the interventions just as varied: “I am really impressed and delighted by the way people are so involved in the process. It’s a marvelous experience, I have learnt so much. People have so much knowledge! And the debates were rich in information, emotions, and bravo for the choice and quality of the speakers“.

“Provide collective answers and solutions while building on our personal experiences”

At 56 years old, Stéphane has lived with cerebral palsy since birth. A disability that has not prevented him from being active, quite the contrary. He graduated as a computer scientist and worked in an industrial firm and then in a multimedia company for people with disabilities.

“To address the uncertainties of tomorrow and prepare for future generations, we need to provide collective answers and solutions while building on our personal experiences.

In 1989 Stéphane became a volunteer with APF France handicap, a French organisation that defends and represents people with disabilities and their families. There, he found personal fulfilment and meaning in his commitment. His experience in computer engineering brought a great added value to the association and its new members.

Convinced that social protection is everyone’s business, Stéphane is proud to take part in the APF France Handicap’s Citizens’ Debate, to perform a civic act and to share ideas. For him, this subject is more than important in view of the period of uncertainty in which we live, particularly for future generations: “We all belong to a minority class, each with our own daily concerns, and that is why we must try to provide answers and collective solutions.

Delighted to be a part of this democratic experience with “constructive exchanges calling on everyone’s experiences“, he hopes that the French presidential candidates will take the proposals into account.

“I want the group to be listened to”

Sylvain is a teacher of adapted physical education for APF France handicap in a medical-social establishment in Savoie, the French Alps. What motivates him is to enhance people’s abilities by sharing activities that generate pleasure. At first skeptical, he agreed to take part in the Citizen Debate organised by the association on social protection.

Sylvain has been working for APF France handicap for 3 years. If he agreed to take part in the association’s Citizens’ Debate, it is because he believes in the strength of projects conducted as a team. His motivation is to achieve a more inclusive and supportive society. For him, his participation is important to feed his knowledge in his field of intervention, to be able to listen to experts, and also to exchange on the theme of social protection with the men and women he supports.

Sylvain skeptical at first: “Citizen participation?  I was a bit reluctant; I doubted its effectiveness. That’s why I didn’t set high expectations so I wouldn’t be disappointed. In the end, he was seduced by the intensity of the experience: “I want to give all I’ve got. I the candidates at the coming French elections would listen to what we’ve got to say. And that one or two proposals could be retained.” Sylvain also underlines his ecological sensitivity which he finds in the debates:

“The participants are aware of the strong link between the environment and health.

The 35-year-old teacher is driven by his fight for equal access to leisure activities and for the beneficial effects of physical education to be known and recognised.

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