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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sidewalk at a popular Tico park. disabilities
Both statutes recognize…
An example of a Costa Rican wheelchair. disabilities
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”
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
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.
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
This pool is not accessible. The only way to get in and out is to use the ladder.