Costa rica and disability rights law a comparative look to international and us law
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Costa Rica and Disability Rights Law a comparative look to International and US Law. Erica Dean Chaim Eliyah Ursula Jennings Jill Salo LSJ/CHID 434. Introduction:.

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Costa Rica and Disability Rights Lawa comparative look to International and US Law

Erica Dean

Chaim Eliyah

Ursula Jennings

Jill Salo

LSJ/CHID 434


Introduction:

In the past forty years, an increased awareness about people with disabilities and their rights has led to the creation of numerous pieces of legislation regarding the status of disabled people and their relationships to their environment.


Introduction Continued

Beginning in 1973 with the Rehabilitation Act in the United States and continuing today at the United Nations with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, countries now look to each other when drafting legislation.


Introduction Continued

With a national “Equal Opportunities Law for Persons with Disabilities”, also known as Ley (Law) 7600, and as a signatory to the UN Convention mentioned above, Costa Rica is one of these such countries working to improve the rights of people with disabilities in all facets of life.


Costa Rica is located in Central America, bordering Panama and Nicaragua.

■ Population of 4.1 million

■ About the size of West Virginia

■ Has an advanced hospital system when compared with other Central American countries.

■ Terrain: Coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes ■ Life expectancy at birth for the total population is 77.21 years

■ Literacy rate of 96%

■ Approx. 10% of the population is identified as having a disability. 6.09% of men and 5.76% of women.


Law 7600:A Brief Summary

Section 1: Covers broad definitions, defines disability as “Any physical, mental, or sensory impairment which substantially limits one or more of an individual's major activities” (Dredf.org)

Section 2: Outlines fundamental principles for accommodation; includes broad statement defining state’s responsibility for providing services and programs for people with disabilities.


Summary Cont.

  • Section 3: Focuses on different components of society, such as access to education (Art. 1), employment (Art. 2), health services (Art. 3), and transportation (Art. 5)

  • Also emphasized is importance of job training and government assistance for employers


Summary Cont.

Section 4: Details sanctions that come with violations (fines for discriminatory practices and/or derogatory remarks) and enforcement practices

Clarifies housekeeping issues such as the process for legal complaints; outlines budget allocations, etc.


Examples of main roadways. Notice that while some streets have sidewalks, others don’t have much room for any pedestrians at all.


Law 7600 and Human Rights

  • The existence of Law 7600, “Equality of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities,” was created in 1996 and demonstrates some of the problems faced by Costa Rican society in terms of availability of social, educational and vocational services to those with disabilities.

  • The ideology behind this law is human rights based and is centered around the concepts of equality and autonomy.


Human Rights documents as they pertain to persons with disabilities

  • The human rights instruments that most directly influenced the creation of Law 7600 were the ICCPR and the ICESCR.

  • The language of autonomy contained in Law 7600 can be attributed to the first Article of each of these covenants, which guarantees the right of all peoples to self determination.


Relevant Articles from the ICCPR

  • Article 2 requires states to “ensure to all individuals…the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind;” this is reflected in Law 7600 in many places, most notably in Title III and Title IV, which mandate accommodations and remedies.

  • Article 16 provides legal protection against the construction of those with disabilities from being considered less than full persons. This is sufficiently implemented, at least in terms of the law, in Law 7600; an example is Article 6 of the second Chapter of Title I, which states that “When, for whatever reason or purpose, the subject of disability is dealt with or utilized, it should be presented as reemphasizing dignity and equality among human beings. By no means should information with stereotypical or derogatory messages about disability be issued….”


Relevant Articles from the ICESCR

  • Article 6, which ensures the right to work. Law 7600 represents the attempt of the state of Costa Rica to “include technical and vocational guidance and training programs, policies and techniques to achieve steady economic, social and cultural development and full and productive employment”.

  • Article 9 protects social security for those who are truly unable to work; Law 7600 ensures that the CCSS, or Caja Costarricense de Seguridad Social, is as accessible to people with disabilities as to any other person. However, it is unclear whether these provisions can lead to institutionalization in the case of one who is unable to work and does not stay with family.

  • Further outlined in this document is the protection of education, including higher education. Law 7600 deals with this extensively in Title II.


Sidewalk at a popular Tico park.


UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  • Opened for signature on March 30, 2007

  • Costa Rica signed both the document and the optional protocol on this date.

  • Member states include: China, Brazil, Cuba, Sudan, Korea and 120 others…but not the United States.


The Convention’s definition of Disability

  • Disability: “Disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” (Preamble section e).

  •  “Persons with disabilities” - Article 1 states that “(p)ersons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. 


Convention compared to Ley 7600

Both statutes recognize…

  • The importance the family plays in eliminating “discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships” (Article 23), (CR - Article 3).

  • Explicit inclusion of women and children in the Convention, recognizing the double discrimination they face (Articles 6,7).

  • Inclusion in cultural activities, including sports, recreation and leisure (Article 30) (CR – Article 3).

  • The right to work is very protected, with lengthy instructions in each document, including: people with disabilities be able to work “on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labor market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities” (Article 27) (CR – Articles 23-30).

  • Also included but not limited to:

    • Right to Health (Article 25) (CR- Articles 31-40)

    • Right to Privacy (Article 22) (CR – Article 40)

    • Right to Education (Article 24) (CR – Articles 14-22)


Further comparison

  • In Article 23 of Ley 7600, the State recognizes the right to work includes “that persons with disabilities of rural and urban areas the right to an adequate job, considering their personal conditions and needs”. This is very important considering the landscape of Costa Rica.

  • Ley 7600, Article 41 sets specific standards for access issues to physical space, whereas the Convention merely asserts the right to mobility.

    • Example: “New constructions or remodeling of existing buildings, parks, sidewalks, gardens, plazas, lanes, restrooms, and other public spaces, must be performed in compliance with the mandatory technical specifications issued by the corresponding public or private entities” Article 41).

  • Ley 7600 outlines numerical amounts for fines related to discrimination against people with disabilities.

    • Example: 5000 colones (10 US dollars) for parking in a designated disabled parking spot


An example of a Costa Rican wheelchair.


Comparison to Section 504 of HEW

Main goal of 504: to prohibit organizations that receive federal funding from discriminating based on disability

Law 7600 does not outline a similarly explicit obligation

Art. 8: Program/service that receives government funding must comply with “the dispositions of this law”


504 Comparison Cont.

Art. 18: Students with disabilities must comply to same educational standards and “respond to the same norms and aspirations that guide the national education system” (Dredf.org)

Requires state to ensure everyone access to education regardless of disability - Ministry of Education must come up with necessary “support, assistance, resources and training” to make this happen


504 Comparison Cont.

Art. 5 focuses on transportation – mandates public transit must be accessible to everyone

“By means of an internal policy avoiding discrimination because of disability, educators, employers, and institutional authorities must sustain conditions of personal respect at work and in study environments” (Dredf.org)


Another example of road construction in Costa Rica, exacerbated by the torrential rains.


Comparison with the ADA:Similarities


Comparison with the ADA:Differences

Costa Rica’s Law 7600 covers many more aspects of the social sphere. There is a deep commitment to “enable persons with disabilities to achieve their maximum development, full participation in society” by ensuring “equal opportunities for the Costa Rican population in areas that include: health, education, work, family life, recreation, sports, culture and other dimensions”.

CHAPTER VII: ACCESS TO CULTURE, SPORTS AND RECREATION

CHAPTER VI: ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION

CHAPTER III ACCESS TO HEALTH SERVICES

CHAPTER II: FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES


Comparisons with the ADA:Differences

Legal Representation:

  • Exercise their right to self-determination and to participate in the decision making process.

  • To have a permanent representation, 25% at the government institution in charge of disability issues of the country.

  • Legally constituted organizations of persons with disabilities must be consulted by the institutions in charge of planning, implementing, and evaluating services and actions in the field of disability.


This pool is not accessible. The only way to get in and out is to use the ladder.


In conclusion…

  • While we have made gains in human rights for people with disabilities, there are still many more obstacles to be overcome.

  • Article 11 of Law 7600 obligates family members of those with disabilities to foster a sense of dignity and help the disabled family member exercise their rights fully whereas in the US disability rights are still very limited to the public sphere.

  • Costa Rica’s law mandates that people with disabilities in both urban and rural areas have the right to an adequate job.


In conclusion…

  • Costa Rica has an impressive collection of national and international legal documents intended to provide benefits for those with disabilities.

  • Costa Rica’s law gives the sense, through its language, of creating an even more accessible environment than we have here in the United States. The problem, however, is implementation. Compared to the United States, Costa Rica’s state infrastructure is relatively weak, and so the ability of the state to provide or demand accommodation is limited. Hopefully this will change over time.


Works Cited

  • Fleischer Doris and Freida Zames (2001). “Groundbreaking Disability Rights Legislation: Section 504”. In The Disability RightsMovement. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” United Nations: 1966. 24 February 2008: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_ccpr.htm

  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.” United Nations: 1966. 24 February 2008: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_cescr.htm

  • Rivera, Oscar G (Translator). “The Equal Opportunities Law for Persons with Disabilities (Law 7600)”. Retrieved February 12, 2007, from DREDF Website: http://www.dredf.org/international/costaeng.html

  • United Nations. United Nations Enable – Promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. 2007. Retrieved February 12, 2007, from United Nations Website: http://www.un.org/disabilities/

  • www.disabilityworld.org/07-08_01/employment/labor1.shtml

  • Other websites of interest

    • http://growingupwithadisability.blogspot.com/search/label/Costa%20Rica

    • https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/print/cs.html


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