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Independent Living from an EU Point of View

Youth In Progress
Baltezers, Latvia 2016
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Independent Living from an EU Point of View
The project was a 4 day intensive training course run by disabled young people for ten other young disabled people from Latvia. It focussed on raising awareness about the concept of ‘Independent Living’ and what it means for disabled people. The young people gained skills and knowledge on how to become more active and make step towards an inclusive society.

Training
Disability
Youth Led

The target group were young disabled people aged 18 - 30, they were selected in an open call based on their motivation to attend the training. Priority was given to young people without previous experience in non-formal education activities in Latvia. Part of the group were young people who are connected with nongovernmental organizations in Latvia but till now have not been active in their programmes. The other part of the group were young people without any connection to any organization or group.


There is a need for the promotion of a young disabled person's right for independent living. Through the empowerment of independent living, disabled young people are one step closer to removing barriers and creating an inclusive and accessible society that includes them. Disabled young people are one of the most discriminated groups in society, the need for empowerment and the promotion of rights on independent living was the main need addressed through this project.

 

The aim of the activity

  • The main aim was to equip the young people and organisations with the tools to identify discrimination and plan strategies to build a tolerant and inclusive society from their own organizational contexts.
  • To create and carry out a training with young disabled people by young disabled people who would like to find out what ‘Independent Living’ is
  • To explore what kind of possibilities they have to create their own activities to become more active in their local communities
  • To get one step closer towards an inclusive society

Objectives

  • Raise awareness about concept of Independent Living and importance of it in one's own life
  • Raise awareness about access to different advocacy tools and support programs
  • Encourage to be more active part of local community via different activities

Most disabled people in Latvia are not aware of the competences they have or could develop. Most are unaware of the rights they have. As a group and as individuals they are disadvantaged in and by society. During the time of the Soviet Union, disabled people as a category did not exist. Disabled children were taken from their families and hidden away in special schools and institutions. After more than 20 years since Latvia’s independence such attitudes towards disabled people still exist, with most disabled people being treated as second class citizens. There have been lot of regulations implemented and many laws made, there have been experiences brought in from other European countries, but generally the only change is that these things exist on paper.

 

This project trained 10 young disabled people to become proactive ambassadors of disabled persons rights and Independent Living. The young people gained competences to engage themselves more actively in their local communities. This was achieved through organizing their own activities, creating a group, becoming multipliers, and joining NGOs. The project showed them that they can do it for themselves and that they are in the same position in society as other young people.

 

Young people need to have the opportunity to gain knowledge, skills and tools for taking a more active and inclusive part in a peaceful society. When a person feels excluded because of a lack of accessibility in society inclusion and participation are not important factors. During the training, participants learned to create inclusive activities for their local community so that other young people could have an opportunity to reflect on their place in society. Experience stories were included in the programme via video messages and Skype conference calls. They were from young people in different parts of Europe to show that many of the problems are the same everywhere. The focus of the stories was on accessibility towards different services and Independent Living. The organisers wanted the participants to understand that such problems do not only exist in their communities, but that this is a common problem in Europe and that change starts within the local community.

 

The project in general was focused on raising awareness of the concept of Independent Living and what it means for disabled people. It also offered skills and knowledge on how to become involved as an active member of society instead of waiting for others to do it. This part of the training course covered local, regional, national and European levels of inclusion and participation. Through non-formal education activities and facilitation the participants reflected on how ‘independent’ their own lives were. They explored the different possibilities they have to become a more active part of society and made their first ‘action plans’ for becoming more active locally, nationally and internationally.


During the training the participants developed an online blog where all the relevant information was stored. The blog’s importance was that even after the training, the participants and other visitors could find information about Independent Living and the training course details.

  Innovation and Impact

The first and most important innovative factor was that this was a training course developed by disabled young people for disabled young people. Instead of waiting for other people to do it for them, this project was an example of a proactive approach by disabled young people. Another unique aspect was that this was the first training course for young disabled people in Latvia focusing on Independent living. Independent Living is about choice, control and equal opportunities.

Throughout history disabled people have been neglected, oppressed and discriminated against. They were (and still are) taught that they are weak, not able to do anything, and have no rights. This experience empowered the young disabled people to become more active and to change the situation in their local communities. They gained the skills and tools as young people to go out and approach others through different activities. They were able to state to their respective communities that they are a part of the community and that the community can gain from their active participation in it. As a result of the project they were able to share their gained skills and knowledge in their local environment making it possible for many other young disabled people to become active.

The project left a huge impact on the participants as well as on the communities they came from partly because the Independent Living topic in Latvia is quite new. The project was a first push to participants to open their eyes and inspire a broader vision. The participants met their peers from all around Latvia and got to know more about the living conditions of young disabled people in other European countries.

Many of the participants now have the knowledge and motivation to go out and stand up for their rights. The blog which was created during the training remains and continues to act as a resource on the subject of Independent Living.

 

  Link with the Council of Europe

TRAYCE:  Gatis Caunitis was a participant of the ‘Training of Trainers for Youth in the Council of Europe’

  Partners and Contacts

https://neatkarigadzive.wordpress.com/  (only available in Latvian)

Further information

Contributors

  • Gatis Caunitis
  • Inga Baltina