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#Europeanheroes: "People with disabilities are an important part of our community". Easy-to-read version

#Europeanheroes: "People with disabilities are an important part of our community". Easy-to-read version
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By Emily Commander
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Dana talks about her son Paulius, who has an intellectual disability. He inspired her to work with a group of people who support families like hers.

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This article is an easy-to-read version of the main story.

The background

In the past, there was not much hope for people with intellectual disabilities and their families in Lithuania.

“Children with intellectual disabilities were often put into institutions.

These are places where people live apart from the rest of the community.

Their lives were hard.

If they got ill, doctors did not give them medicine.

People believed that only families which do not fit into the community had disabled children.

Many parents never left home together with their children with an intellectual disability.

They tried to hide their children from society,” says Dana Migaliova.

Dana has a son called Paulius, who has an intellectual disability.

She has spent her life working to support people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

The start of Viltis

In 1989, a doctor called Dainius Puras brought together a group of parents who had children with intellectual disabilities.

He asked them what they wanted for their children.

Dana was one of the parents in the group.

She wanted the same things as the other parents.

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These are the things she wanted for her son Paulius: - Paulius should be able to live at home.

- Paulius should have somewhere to go and be cared for in the day.

- Paulius should get proper medical care.

- Pauliius should go to school.

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Dainius Puras said that it would be good for the parents to start an organisation to make these things happen.

So the parents started the organisation.

They called it Viltis.

In Lithuanian, viltis means hope.

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At first, the organisation had 9 members, including Dana.

Now it has 52 members.

Dana became the director of Viltis.

She is also a board member of Inclusion Europe, the European organisation for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

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Getting enough support

Dana is passionate about making the dreams of people with intellectual disabilities and their families come true.

She wants people with intellectual disabilities to be included and accepted in the community.

She wants them to be treated properly.

She wants their rights to be understood and respected.

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Thanks to support from Viltis, Dana’s son Paulius was able to live at home and go to school.

Viltis works on some important topics.

Dana says:

- “People with intellectual disabilities need personal help.

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- Their parents also need to be able to take breaks.

- Children with and without disabilities should learn together.

- People with intellectual disabilities must not be made to live apart from other people, in institutions.

They should be able to live in the community.”

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"People with disabilities are an important part of our community"

There has been progress.

Paulius is now nearly 40.

He goes to a day centre.

This leaves Dana free to go to work in the day.

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Dana is happy about the positive changes that have taken place in Lithuania for people with intellectual disabilities.

“Now people with intellectual disabilities go out in public – to shops, cafes, cinemas, and parks,” says Dana.

"This is great, but we cannot stop there".

It is very important for Dana to “help people”.

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So she will not stop anytime soon.

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