Good practices in Lithuania of young people inclusion in urban spaces
“Our human family is complete when everyone is included.” (Curt Amstrong) Nowadays, everybody's inclusion is still a struggle in many places, and Lithuanian cities are no exception. There is still a lack of understanding of what facilities or infrastructure is needed for older people or people with disabilities to feel comfortable and included. However, the issue of diversity and inclusion is increasingly at the center of public discussion and new initiatives in Lithuania, and in this article, we present good practices of urban areas eligible for everyone.
Educational trail “Šeirė”
One of the best examples of inclusive urban areas is a regional park located in the northwestern part of Lithuanian: “Šeirė.” The park has an educational trail easily accessible for everyone – kids, seniors, and people with disabilities. The trail is convenient not only for people who have walking disabilities but also for those who have vision impairment, as it has Braille signs with useful information about the park and audio guides. The whole infrastructure allows everyone to experience nature by eyesight, smell, hearing, touch, and movement. As the national park director mentions, even though an infrastructure project was created 10 years ago, every year they attempt to make the park even more inclusive and attainable.
The park offers stunning views, showing the sites of Šerės forests, Gaudupiai swamps, and Plateliai lake. The path leads to a peninsula where a castle was built a long time ago and lasts 4 kilometers, but the views you see while walking makes this educational trail very quick and effortless. During the walk, it is also possible to stop by children's playing grounds or rest zones.
Library for everyone
Another excellent example of inclusive urban spaces in Lithuania is the Mažeikiai library. On the doors of this library, it is written that it is a “Library for everyone”, which is entirely true. After renovation in 2016 building spaces became accessible for everyone. It is easily approachable for people with physical disabilities, mental health conditions, autism spectrum disorders, and people with intellectual disabilities. For example, the library archives offer phonic and Braille-written books for people with visual impairment., and here is a special place called “Space for expression of emotions” in the children and youth section, where young people can learn how to control emotions, block anger and stress.
The Mazeikiai library is a place of paramount importance for people who have autism spectrum disorders. Especially during the national lockdown, this library was helping a lot by delivering books to those who could not come to the library but truly desired to read books. Moreover, Mažeikiai library is very open for all the organizations, which include people with disabilities. Together they create events, exhibitions, and dolls' theatre performances. As the director of the library says, the library's goal is to be more than just the place where people take books: it is to be a place for everyone, in spite of their age, status, gender, and abilities.
One more place is “Mano guru” ( my guru). “Mano guru” is more than a restaurant which serves delicious food. It is a social project which started in 2004. Restaurant employs people with alcohol or drug addictions, people with disabilities, ex-offenders, and homeless people. In 17 years they managed to employ 700 people and 75% of them successfully came back to the labour market. It aims to integrate people who were left out back into the society. Help them with free training on how to become bartender, cooker, water and provide consultation with the psychologists, if needed.