Much to Celebrate in Ecuador on International Disability Day
On the U.N.’s International Day of Disabled Persons, teleSUR evaluates Ecuador’s ambitious program for its disabled citizens.
Developing nations rarely prioritze people with disabilities, but Ecuador is bucking this trend, not only creating robust policy to be used nationally, but setting a gold standard exportable to other countries.
On the U.N. International Day of Disabled Persons, recognized every Dec. 3, Ecuador's achievements deserve to be celebrated, as well as looking at the small nation's challenges for the future.
Ecuador presented its disability plan to the United Nations in September.
Ecuador’s Disability Action Plan covers therapeutic assistance, such as aids for daily activities; social protection and ongoing care; preventative measures such as neonatal screening; inclusion programs; and ensuring the ability to exercise civil and political rights.
Ecuador's roughly 400,000 people living with disabilities, among a population of some 15 million, certainly enjoy more equality and services eight years after the group was made one of the priorities of Presdient Rafael Correa's Citizens' Revolution.
"In just 5 years, from 2008 to 2013, Ecuador has moved from being a state without a policy for people with disabilities and with isolated welfare proposals, to a country that offers a wide range of opportunities so that this priority group can be included in society in the best way possible, by giving this group and active role in the construction of the future," explain a group of expert authors in foreign relations journal "Lineasur."
Indeed, among Ecuador's disabled population, by 2013, 230,199 people had received assistance as a result of initial programs.
A 2012 report estimated that, on average, 12.4 percent of Latin Americans and 5.4 percent of Caribbeans live with at least one disability. The Ecuadorean government is already assisting people with disabilities in other countries, namely Uruguay and El Salvador, to implement similar schemes. It has also provided assistance to Peru, Jamaica and Haiti in disability.
The government's inclusive definition covers anyone in Ecuador with hearing, physical, mental, intellectual, language, psychological or visual disabilities.
Various bodies have been formed to create services for these conditions, which can make life more difficult, including the National Council for Equality for Disabled People, the National Disability Directorate and the Technical Secretariat for Disabilities.
The latter combined the three government missions set up in the first phase of the revolution, the Manuela Espejo Solidarity Mission, Ecuador Without Borders, and the Joaquin Gallegos Lara Mission, which laid the groundwork for the comprehensive service program to provide assistance to Ecuadoreans living with disabilities.
One of these, the Joaquin Gallegos Lara Mission, saw some 12,000 homes renovated to meet people’s needs, and aid given to 20,000 people with severe disabilities, as well as almost 500,000 technical aids distributed.
Ecuador's online resources for people wanting to know about disabilities, and for those affected include a sign language dictionary, anti-discrimination training, and easy access to relevant laws.
A nationwide public campaign to end discrimination was implemented under the heading of "constructing an inclusive society," while the song, "Now you can hear my voice," gets the message across that everyone should appreciate diversity.
While physical provisions for disabled people are not perfect, especially outside the capital, walking down Quito streets, one sees tactile paving for blind people, and far more sidewalk ramps, and wheelchair-friendly buses, than in many other capitals.
This year the International Day of People with Disabilities theme is looking at disaster risk reduction and emergency responses, creating enabling working environments and disability-inclusive sustainable development goals, challenging Ecuador to take its provisions for disabled people to a higher level of integration.
Facts about people with disabilities across the world
-At least 10% of the world's population, or 650 million people, live with a disability.
-20% of the worlds poor are disabled.
-The percentage of children with disabilities not attending school is extremely variable and is between 65 - 85% in some African countries.
-Mortality for children with disabilities may be as high as 80% in countries where under-five mortality as a whole has decreased to below 20%.
-In many low-income and middle -income countries, only 5-15% of disabled people who require assistive devices and technology have access to them. Source: World Health Organization