Eitynių "Už miestą visiems" akimirka, L.Balandis, 15min.lt nuotrauka
Independent Living Day 2018 m. in Vilnius

We are the biggest platform of organizations in Lithuania representing people with disabilities and their families. At the moment it has 15 national member organisations representing about 300 000 Lithuanian people with disabilities and their families. We are member organisation of European Disability Forum which unites most of disability umbrellas and international disability organizations, and is major advocacy organisation for disability issues at EU level.

What are our aims?

Our collective aim is for persons with disabilities to have equal opportunities to take part in all areas of life: education, job market, public and political life.

Inclusion of persons with disabilities is guaranteed by high-quality and purposeful assistive services within the community, which provide the possibility to live independently, choose place of residence, educational institutions, employment, and forms of leisure and public life.

One of the key goals of LDF is the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Lithuania. This international document was passed in 2006 and ratified in Lithuania in 2010.

LNF MEMBERS

What do we do?

LDF monitors the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), submits reports to international and Lithuanian institutions, participates in making decisions related to disability politics on both national and regional level.

The organisation also files complaints on violations of rights of disabled persons, prepares legal claims. A lot of attention goes towards improving the image of persons with disabilities, as well as informing and educating the public.

LDF fields of activity

LDF and its members are active participants in almost all disability-related policy fields. We are especially active in segments which are undergoing political changes or reforms. The Forum is not being proactive on certain issues, yet nevertheless gathers information on the current situation and presents their point of view.

Monitoring

LDF bases its monitoring practices on the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The convention that was approved in the UN in 2006 and came into power in 2008 became the basis for the protection of rights of persons with disabilities and somewhat of an international constitution for the community.

When Lithuania ratified CRPD in 2010, the government has undertaken international commitments to respect, ensure, and implement the established standards for human rights and eliminate the obstacles for guarantees of dignity and equal rights. The convention implementation mechanism includes a periodic assessment of the state of persons with disabilities based on the convention’s provisions. Our committee assesses the official government report, as well as alternative reports prepared by disability organizations.

In 2016 LDF submitted an alternative report on the implementation of United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Lithuania to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Having evaluated the governmental report, as well as that prepared by disability organisations, the committee provided conclusions and recommendations for Lithuania on future actions aimed at improving the situation of persons with disabilities.

LDF also submits reports to other international organisations and also conducts various studies in Lithuania, which are then presented to the public and the national institutions concerned with national disability policies.

Education

Good practices and research shows, that persons with disabilities have the best luck establishing themselves in countries, where the education system insures their inclusion in general educational institutions from the earliest stages. This commitment is also determined by international documents on the rights of persons with disabilities, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The concept of inclusive education has started to become a reality, nonetheless, 47 special schools are still open in the country. About a third of school-age children with disabilities are educated there: 8472 such pupils are educated in general education schools, 3416 – in special ones.

Unfortunately, the quality of inclusive education in Lithuania has received poor assessments. General education schools lack teachers capable of appropriately working with children with various disabilities, so disabled children that are a part of the inclusive education system do not always receive quality educational services.

Employment

Following the provisions of United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), LDF takes up the position that the state should encourage the employment of persons with disabilities in the open market.  The employment system currently established in Lithuania directs such people into segregated enterprises where inclusion is limited.

Employment of persons with disabilities in Lithuania is extremely low – only at 27 percent. Finding a job is especially difficult for those with more severe disabilities.

Due to a long-time exclusion of persons with disabilities, the employees tend to have negative biases toward such people. There is also a lack of assistive services that would aid persons with disabilities in finding and keeping a job.

Physical accessibility

Accessibility of the physical environment is one of the main independence conditions for people with various disabilities. Public spaces have to equally be made accessible for the visually and hearing impaired.

Research conducted by LDF members showed that only a fifth of health institutions are completely accessible for persons with disabilities, while the percentage of accessible schools is less than 50. Public transportation also frequently becomes an obstacle for independent movement: 70 percent of all the passenger buses in Lithuania are not accessible for the disabled population.

There is a severe lack of construction elements which provide markings for the blind and the visually impaired in public spaces, such as contrast strips on the stairs, tactile surfaces on the pavement.

For the hearing impaired it is important that the evacuation and information systems in public buildings would function using not only auditory, but also light-based signals.

Information accessibility

Information accessibility is relevant to a significant segment of the society; however, it is extremely important for the blind, visually and hearing impaired, or those with intellectual disability.

The blind and visually impaired receive a lot of information using smart technologies, alas, not all websites or mobile applications are programmed to be suitable for the screen reader software used by the blind and visually impaired. Moreover, Lithuania does not have an established practice of making video material accessible via the use of audio description. There are only a few movies adapted in this manner.

Lithuanian sign language is the native language for the deaf, so the crucial need is for information to be made accessible via the use of the sign language or text (subtitles). The public broadcaster LRT subtitles just a little over 6 percent of their total broadcast, and almost 5 percent of the programming is translated into sign language.

Intellectually disabled people have a better understanding of information when simple language and illustrations are used, yet such adaptation of public information is a rarity in Lithuania.

Deinstitutionalisation

Currently a reform of care homes for people with disabilities is taking place in Lithuania, with an aim to create better care conditions and implement new services for persons with disabilities who live in communities.

The number of people in Lithuania who reside in institutions is extremely high – almost 7 000, however, a tendency has been observed recently to establish smaller group-living spaces with better conditions. However, the disabled community is concerned with the fact that said reform is directed only at those under institutional care, while people with disabilities who are part of the general community and/or their families, continue to experience a lack of assistive services, leading them to getting on a waiting list to enter a care home. This creates a vicious cycle of institutionalized care.

There are several positive initiatives in the field of community services – Several municipalities are running pilot projects for personal assistant services. A promise has been made that if said projects deliver, the service will become permanent and implemented throughout the country.

Equality before the law and supported decision making

LDF has been advocating for about a decade, striving for reform of legal capacity regulation and implementation of supported decision making. Since 2012 LDF is participating in working group drafting laws on changing provisions on legal capacity in Civil Code and Code of civil procedure to comply with CRPD requirements. New regulation came into force in 2016.

In 2016 LDF has been contracted by the Ministry of Social security and labour to provide trainings for social workers on the national level introducing new paradigm shift established within CRPD on equality before the law and new requirements on realisation of all the fundamental human rights by all persons with disabilities and introducing supported decision making model instead of substituted decision making.

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