Better quality of life for disabled people in Latvia and Lithuania

The ‘My Response’ project has broken down the barriers facing disabled people in Latvia and Lithuania by developing and piloting social services, educating personnel and improving accessibility.

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Out-reach posters increase awareness about the accessibility and disabled-friendly area of the Baltic Sea. © My Response, Inga Kalnina Out-reach posters increase awareness about the accessibility and disabled-friendly area of the Baltic Sea. © My Response, Inga Kalnina

" ‘My Response’ showcased universal design – a concept where daily living conditions can be made more comfortable for as large a group of people as possible. It does not always require a lot of money and work, but a fresh perspective on ordinary things. "

Kristiāns Godiņš, Head of Kurzeme Planning Region Administration

The project used all the necessary tools in order to improve social integration: more qualified specialists, adapted infrastructure, new services and spread of information. The project team evaluated the accessibility of social services and to what extent disabled people were being integrated into society. They provided environmental improvements and additional training for employers in the sector and developed two new joint social services in the region – a companion-assistant service and a short-time stay service. Both have made life easier for disabled people and those close to them.

Embracing Universal Design

‘My response’ also made infrastructure improvements to various municipalities in both countries through embracing the concept of universal design and raising awareness of new innovations and tools for better integrating disabled people into society.

Overall, 1 252 different field specialists received further education and training, while an additional 30 people were trained to provide companion-assistant services. More than 870 disabled people benefited from these new services during their piloting.

A total of 13 project partners have developed a more sustainable community and made their environment more active, equal and integrated. Crucially, nine partners have invested in their environment to make it more accessible, while six partners have provided new companion-assistant services, with three now having new short-time stay services.

An accessible beach

Probably the most visual success of the project is the Liepaja beach, which has been made mostly accessible through universal design. It now houses special changing rooms, showers and toilets. Audio buoys have been installed in the sea, allowing the blind and visually impaired to know their exact location. Meanwhile, tactile maps were developed and placed in the beach park, while special footpaths have been constructed for wheelchair users to access the beach or those wanting to swim in the sea.

This successful project has made the region and the Baltic Sea coast a better tourism destination for people with special needs. It has also raised awareness of the issues facing disabled people, while promoting their inclusion to a wider audience by holding information events and campaigns open to the general public.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the “My Response” project is EUR 1 157 295 of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 966 968 from the Operational Programme “Latvia-Lithuania” for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date

19/08/2015