Parents Build Alliances for the Future of their Disabled Children

Several men and women sit at a head table with microphones. People from the media stand in front of them with cameras and notepads.
  • The Accomplishment

  • What Worked

  • About the Author

For more than twenty-three years we have been the pioneers pushing for more support of rehabilitative services from the municipal education sector. In response to the need for services for children with disabilities, in 1996 FUNDABIEM–a private institution–established the first rehabilitation center for people with disabilities in the Guatemalan municipality of Panajachel. This location was chosen due to the importance of its geographic proximity, which favored the mobility of families with children.

Later, in San Lucas Tolimán, the Association of Parents and Friends of Persons with Disabilities was founded; it is known by acronym ASOPADIS. It started out in the home of one of the children’s parents. Due to a rapid increase in demand, we sought the help of prominent leaders known for supporting the cause. As a result, a private school decided to help by offering us one of their classrooms so we could provide continuity of services providing physical and speech therapy to an initial group of fewer than 15 children.

In order to expand our efforts, we successfully partnered with the Association for Coordinating Organizations by and for Persons with Disability (ACOPEDIS), which brings together sixteen organizations from six of the nineteen municipalities that make up the department (state) of Sololá. ACOPEDIS is a network that focuses on the locations that have established a Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) strategy in regards to health, education, social life, livelihood, and empowerment.

In ASOPADIS, our services have grown to include escorting people with disabilities to medical and legal appointments, administrative and legal counsel, as well as vigilant oversight of full compliance with and respect for the human rights and principles set forth in the CRPD (which has been signed and ratified in Guatemala).

We’ve witnessed a lot of progress in the municipality of San Lucas Tolimán in the department (state) of Sololá, where the teaching staff at mainstream schools are beginning to show interest in the inclusion of children with disabilities. Staff members are participating in a process of training on inclusive education with the short-term goal of establishing inclusive practices in the educational system, at least on the local level.

“The struggle in the face of indifference is beginning to bear fruit. Spaces and rights, which in earlier times were off limits to people with disabilities, are beginning to open up, especially in the area of access to a quality education provided in equal conditions as established by the CRPD.”

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