Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Marking the legacy of Gábor Gombos

By Steven Allen 4th June 2024



We remember Gábor Gombos, who passed away on 5 June 2022. Gábor’s work shaped the Hungarian and international disability movement, and his stories, presentations, speeches, and thoughts went to the heart of his audience. The book titled ’The World – Without Cage Beds: World-Shaping Narratives by Gábor Gombos’ can be ordered here and downloaded here.

To mark the second anniversary of Gábor’s passing, we are pleased to present a previously unseen interview with him about the right to legal capacity.

Two years ago, the Validity Foundation expressed its deep sadness at the passing of Gábor Gombos and published a message of tribute, along with a message from Amita Dhanda, Professor Emerita and Head of the Centre for Disability Studies and the Centre for Legal Philosophy and Justice Education, NALSAR University of Law, and a tribute from Bhargavi Davar who passed away on 22 May 2024.

Rest in peace Bhargavi and Gábor. You are in our hearts.




In November 2023, Validity and our partners at the Bárczi Gusztáv Faculty of Special Needs Education at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) published a unique collection of materials commemorating the life, work and thought of Gábor Gombos, a leading figure in the Hungarian and global disability rights movements and survivor of psychiatry.

Gombos, who passed away in June 2022, was a world-renowned independent disability rights defender. He chaired the European Network of (ex-)Users and Survivors of Psychiatry and co-chaired the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, and served as an adjunct professor at NALSAR Law University in Hyderabad, India, and with the NUI Galway Centre for Disability Law and Policy, Ireland. He was a senior advocacy officer at Validity’s predecessor, the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, and served as a senior advisor to Validity until his passing. Until the end of 2012, he also served as a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In the late spring and early summer of 2018, Gábor was telling stories to and shared his thoughts with the first Hungarian member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, György Könczei in room A58 of the Ecseri Street building of the Bárczi Gusztáv Faculty of Special Needs Education of ELTE, Eötvös Loránd University. Gábor succeeded him in the ranks of Hungarian members of the CRPD Committee. Prof Könczei audio recorded ten sessions of this kind. When Gábor passed away in mid-2022, Validity, together with ELTE, decided to publish these audio recordings.

After transcribing the audio file, translating it into English, editing it and sending it to the press, these new materials were launched during a panel discussion that took place at the 9th Hungarian Disabilities Studies Conference, commemorating Gábor’s legacy. English and Hungarian versions of the book titled The World Without Cage Beds were launched, comprised of a collection of Gábor’s thoughts about the world, human rights, the human mind and physics. We also launched a website dedicated to his legacy.

I was sixteen years old when I first found myself in a locked ward, a psychiatric locked ward, and well, I was very scared. (…) My fear was greatly increased by the fact that my immediate neighbour was a young man, locked in a cage bed, naked, covered with a sheet. Well, why would they keep someone in a cage?’ Obviously, he must be very dangerous. So, I couldn’t sleep at all, and I was completely shocked when one night a few days later the young man started talking to me. Then slowly, very slowly, overcoming my fear, we struck up a conversation. I was absolutely shocked to see that an intelligent, sensitive young man, who had just been through (or had not yet been through) a rather horrible life situation, could find himself in a cage in the last quarter of the 20th century. All this at a time when what he needed was human support and help.

(Excerpt from The World Without Cage Beds – World-shaping Narratives by Gábor Gombos)

Throughout the various narratives, Gábor talks with great insight and profound reflection about his life, disability rights, physics, ethics, his struggles, and his understanding of the world. The book is now available publicly for download and ordering here.

Gábor’s friend and Validity’s Impact Manager, Sándor Gurbai, said:

I had the privilege to work together with Gábor Gombos. I remember when Gábor came to the office door and said, ‘Sanyi, shall we smoke?’ Even though I did not smoke, I got up, filled my mug with coffee and went out with Gábor to ‘smoke’. On other occasions, Gábor came in the same way and just asked from the doorway, ‘Lunch?’ And we went to have lunch together. We talked during lunch. These conversations and our even earlier encounters led to us becoming friends.

Once, when we were talking about supported decision-making, Gábor said that it was a mutual relationship. A genuine support-based relationship is never one-way. In such a relationship, both people are enriched. Both give and receive. If this aspect is not present in a supportive relationship, then it is something else but not support.

Gábor loved to tell stories, and he did it in such an interesting way that one could not get tired of it. Other times, he was withdrawn and hard to talk to. At such times, sitting quietly over coffee was a very profound encounter. I can also remember instances where we hurt each other or even ignored each other. A few days or weeks passed, and things were sorted out.

A new website – – gives everyone the opportunity to share pictures, videos or written documents of Gábor, and anyone can share their story with him by sending them We will collect these materials and make them available on this new website.