Action „FITS – Strategy for Fostering Social Inclusion and Mutual Cohesion of Visually Impaired People Through Sports“ (or simply – FITS) is a joint project of several sports organisations for the visually impaired amateur and professional sportsmen in Lithuania and Belarus. Though, the Action‘s main promoters are sports club „Šaltinis“ in Lithuanian capital and Belarus Association of the Visually Handicapped (Rus. БелТИЗ) in Minsk. The Action is being supported in the framework of the Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus Cross Border Cooperation Programme within the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument 2007-2013.
FITS is quite long in time – its duration is 18 months; on the other hand, the Action‘s objectives are even more long-term. FITS aims to make a huge step towards a wider social inclusion of the visually impaired people in general and, as the project goes, specifically through sports.
Most of the public places, even in capital cities, are not adapted for visually impaired people. This creates an isolation and deprives the rest of the society from even seeing a blind person in the street. Despite the widely spread ideas of equal right and opportunities, tolerance and mutual cohesion, as far as the visually impaired are concerned, the majority do not know how to behave (talk, act, approach, etc.) a visually handicapped person.
Specifically, as far as the sports is concerned, nowadays, the vast majority of the society members are not interested in or do not even know about the Paralympic Games – therefore, what seems to be of a great importance to those who are vision-challenged, seems to be naive, plain or boring to most of the society members. This common opinion needs to be influenced, especially if we perceive sports as one of the integration tools. Speaking about the blind sports in the participating countries – Belarus and Lithuania – it is rather well developed, especially the following 4 kinds of sports: goalball, judo, swimming, and chess.
The Action FITS fosters the social inclusion of the visually impaired people through sports from 3 angles.
First of all, it approaches the problem of poor infrastructure and strives, at least to some extent, to improve the sports facilities for the visually impaired as opportunities for socialisation. For this reason two sports halls will experience positive changes during the implementation of the Action: the Šaltinis sports base in Vilnius and Grodno boarding school sports hall.
Secondly, FITS is very much concentrated on the quality level of the work with the visually impaired sportsmen; therefore, in the framework of the Action there are planned several seminars for those, who directly work with this target group (trainers, judges, and other staff) and camps, where sportsmen of different level of expertise can meet, train together, exchange best practices of the two countries.
Thirdly, FITS addresses the problem of common perception of the visually impaired in society by promoting its activities and inviting not only the direct target group of the Action (i.e. visually impaired people) but also those, who do not experience this challenge. In other words, FITS is ensuring that the integration process is happening from both sides – not only the visually impaired are integrating into the healthy environment, but also vice verse.
Anyone can take part in the activities or even become a volunteer in the FITS team and make own input into the issue! Follow the information on saltinis.org – Let‘s together make one more step towards consciousness and equal rights!