(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first express how pleased I am to speak at the opening of this exhibition here in Vilnius – dealing with a subject of great importance to so many of us.
As you may know, I grew up in Brazil. As a young girl in Sao Paolo, I soon became aware of the fact that not all children had the same opportunities in life. I saw how children with different forms of disabilities did not have the same possibilities to attend school and participate in play and leisure activities – in everyday life.
Obviously, people with disabilities are not a homogeneous group. Each person has unique circumstances and needs, and carries a special story. One such history belongs to Aušra. Aušra can neither walk nor speak, but she can do everything else. She can smile, enjoy life, and she can and knows how to be happy.
Aušra’s story is a part of the AccessAbility exhibition shown here today, and it gives a brief insight into the theme of the presentation. By sharing these stories, the exhibition can inspire us and raise awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities and reduce the stigma attached to such conditions.
Individuals with disabilities have the same human rights as everyone else – to live with dignity, regardless of disability, is a human right according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Many of us are affected. In Sweden, about 1.8 million people – almost 20 per cent of the population – live with disabilities. Over half a million have impaired mobility, and over one million people are affected by rheumatism.
This exhibition shows that there is still work to be done, both in Sweden and Lithuania. For people with disabilities to enjoy full equality in society, we need to see more changes for the better in environments, laws and attitudes.
I sincerely hope that this exhibition and I myself – through my work and commitment – can help raise awareness of this important issue.