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Life in Lithuania has never been easy for people with mental and physical disabilities. Under Communism, there was a strong stigma attached to being different, and these individuals were viewed as a drain on society. Rather than incorporating them into communities, they were banished to institutions and remained there for their entire lives. Many were the victims of barbaric treatment: locked in cages and used in clinical trials that dispensed with the idea that they were actually human beings capable of emotions and understanding.
“Viltis” from the very first days of its foundation bravely stated to return people with developmental disability into society. Creating a network of services in the community for people with disabilities and their families, the society constantly sought and seeks a dialogue with legislative and executive governmental institutions, with relative organizations in Lithuania and abroad, as well as with the public. Currently, the legal form of society “Viltis” is Association; it consists of 53 associate members located in different towns of Lithuania. It brings together more than 11 000 members. In 2010 in Lithuania was ratified Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities. Dana put a lot of effort into it. And now, a lot of her efforts goes to implementations and monitoring of this conventions.
Acting on principles of openness and Social Partnership, Association “Viltis” became an active performer of the state program of social integration of people with disability.
Dana’s dynamic and ambitious project is two-fold: In addition to change societal perceptions regarding physically and mentally disabled individuals, she is creating legal frameworks to effectively protect and support individuals with special needs. For both challenges, Dana needs to involve a wide range of families, citizen groups, governmental organizations, and policy makers.
Dana founded the Lithuanian Welfare Society for Persons with mental disability, or Viltis, which means, “hopes” in 1989. The vision of Association is to be the main engine ensuring legal and equal participation in public life, to represent people with mental and physical disabilities and their families interests at all levels and protect their civil, social and human rights.
As the mother of an autistic son, Dana began her fight long ago to protect him from societal discrimination and indifference. Unable to imagine her child locked away in an institution, which has long been the socially-accepted treatment, Dana decided the only hope for disabled people to live a ‘’normal life” was set up legal and social systems support them.
Tel: +370 5 261522
Dana is a director of Lithuanian Welfare Society for Persons with Mental Disability ‘’Viltis”. She ensuring that people with mental and physical disabilities living in the former Soviet states gain full citizenship rights and access to a better life.