A Celebration of Neighbourhood and Friendship: Reducing Social Exclusion and Creating Accessible Environment
“Every day the sun warms everyone because it loves us”, these were the words that opened the twelfth celebration of neighbourhood and friendship which took place on May 27th. It was organized by the Lithuanian Welfare Society for People with Intellectual Disability “Viltis”. The lyrics of the anthem “Mes irgi galime mylėti” (“We can love too”) reflect the philosophy of the organization: understanding and love for everyone, regardless of our differences.
The event traditionally took place near one of the organization’s day employment centers in Vilnius, Kareivių Street. To the celebration were invited not only members of the community from all over Lithuania, but also employees from companies located in the neighbourhood.
The aim of the event is to change the often-erroneous public attitude towards the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities, to reduce their social exclusion, and to embrace communication.
For this celebration members of the community have prepared an entertaining program. The ensemble of the day center “Mes esame” has performed well-known Lithuanian songs. Day employment center from Šakiai has surprised everyone with a performance based on K. Donelaitis’ “Metai”. Meanwhile, the Markučiai Day activity center invited everyone to dance the famous “Jerusalema” and other dances.
Dana Migaleva, Head of the Viltis, greeted the participants and thanked for the communication. According to her, a person with a disability has a large open heart capable of loving people and life. They, more than others, know how to enjoy small things.
“A lot of people ask me how we’re going through pandemic, but in reality, all this time we have been in a kind of isolation so far. We can’t go everywhere we want, like going to theatres, to shows,” she said, noting the continuing social exclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.
During the event, Aidas Gudavičius, a representative of “Viltis”, presented the European Union-funded project “The Mind Inclusion”, which aims to spread information and increase the accessibility of public places for people with disabilities.
The community “Viltis” together with partners from Italy, Spain, and France have created the app “The Mind Inclusion 2.0”. It makes it easy to find information on different places suitable to people with specific needs. It shows whether the place has wheelchair access, whether it is noisy etc. Owners of shops, cafes, museums, libraries, parks, and other public places are invited to register their activities in the app if their place is adapted for people with disabilities.
Vaida Praciuvienė, Head of Internal Communication and Social Responsibility Projects of Penki Kontinentai Group, which is a sponsor of the celebration, noted the importance of creating an accessible environment for people with disabilities for their integration into society. In the near future, the Penki Kontinentai Group, together with the members of “Viltis” plans to participate in the DUOday project, where an employee of a company and a person with a disability form a harmonious duo, working together all day. The project provides an opportunity for a person with specific needs to get acquainted with the company’s activities, to try himself or herself out in the shoes of employees.
Due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional community handcraft fair which used to be the highlight of the event for the employees of the Penki Kontinentai Group, was not held this year. However, it was nice to see representatives of the “Kavos galia” who provided coffee and proved that people with disabilities can work and integrating into society.
“Viltis”, which has been working in Lithuania for more than 30 years, includes more than 60 organizations throughout Lithuania. It unites almost 12,000 people, children, and adults with intellectual disabilities, as well as their families and guardians.