Exchanging Experiences, Expanding Opportunities

IASPD 15 - "Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction for Persons with Disabilities"

Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 10:30

This online workshop will discuss the main characteristics of the approach to  people with disabilities and how to ensure proper implementation of public policies intended for these groups. The event is open to the public interested in social protection.

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The 15th Inter-American Social Protection Dialogue (IASPD) was held on May 25th, in which specialists in the area of persons with disability participated and discussed various perspectives on “Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction for People with disabilities.”

With a brief introduction of the panelists, Pamela Molina opened the dialogue with her presentation, titled “paradigms in disability: from “patients” to “citizens” (original title in Spanish: Paradigmas en Discapacidad: de “pacientes” a “ciudadanos).” The presentation focused on the various types of stigma that persons with disability live with, which is reflected in the terms that are commonly used to refer to persons with disability, often times politically incorrect and framing them as abnormal patients. Molina explained that social stigmatization comes from people’s unconscious reaction for diversity, which makes them feel uncomfortable and frightened, leading them to wrongly associate such diversity with danger and incapability. The exclusion that people with disability face comes from a socially constructed paradigm, not because “disability” itself is substantive. In other words, social practices and systems are not adjusted to embrace the diversity because of the socially and culturally structured concept. In addition, Molina emphasized the vicious cycle of invisibility – people with disability are considered as invisible within and out of their homes, instead of being acknowledged as an integral part of society. Access to rights, because of such invisibility, is limited. As a fundamental solution to the exclusion of people with disability, Molina suggested that paradigms change, from a medical model where the problem lies in the person and disability is a problem and deficiency that should be cured, to a social or human rights model where exclusion does not stem from within people, rather from society, and where the social concept about people with disability that limits the provision of resources and access to human rights are eliminated so that equal opportunities and environment is given, the focus being what ability people have, not disability.

The second presentation, “Poverty and Social Exclusion: discrimination against people with disability (original title in Spanish: Pobreza y exclusión social: la discriminación hacia la población con discapacidad)” was given by Patricia Brogna, who explained the topic with a contextual approach. Supporting the idea of the previous presenter, she stressed that the fundamental problem does not lie in the people - disability and vulnerability is not an attribution of a person - but a result of limited access to welfare and services. Brogna emphasized that “equality” does not mean that people are “same,” or “made same,” but one that takes into account the heterogeneity and diversity of people. Moreover, measurement of poverty is not based on salary, but rather on the lack of resources and opportunities. In that sense, people with disability have been deprived of such resources, accumulating the disadvantages they have. To conclude, Brogna underlined the importance of distinguishing between distinction and discrimination as well as preventing such difference to result in the disaffiliation and fragmentation of people with disability.

Lastly, Mercedes Carrillo, as the last presenter, added a legislative perspective to the topic, giving relevant examples of policies and programs with the presentation titled “National experiences of inclusion in labor and education, oriented towards the reduction of poverty in the Americas (original title in Spanish: Experiencias nacionales de inclusión educativa y laboral orientadas a la reducción de la pobreza en las Américas).” In the same context as previous speakers, Carrillo highlighted that poverty and vulnerable situations are more than small salary, and presented positive cases where countries in the region have implemented programs and policies in an effort to remove barriers that structurally causes people to become vulnerable.

Carrillo presented legislative cooperation and actions being taken in the region with regards to the topic. The Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (CIADDIS), adopted in 1999, marked the first regional recognition of the universal human rights of people with disability which placed obligations upon states. Also, following the Summit of the Americas, the Program of Action for the Decade of the Americas for the Rights and Dignity of Persons (PAD) was adopted, in which 15 lines of actions were established and 12 actions in the education and employment respectively. Member States, correspondingly, have submitted National Report on the Implementation of the CIADDIS and PAD, indicating the fulfillment of such actions set out in CIADDIS and PAD. 18 countries have presented their first national reports in 2008 and 2009, and the second national reports are being compiled, submitted by 12 countries and using 50 indicators.

With more examples of successful cases of education and employment programs implemented in different countries, such as Podés (Argentina), Plan Vive Digital (Colombia), Sello Chile Inclusivo (Chile)  and Programa Fami-empresa (Panama), the presentation concluded.



Event Details

Date and Time

Wednesday May 25th, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EST).


  • Pamela Molina, specialist, Area of rights of People with Disabilities, OAS Department of Social Inclusion (Social perspective and rights-based approach) (10 minutes)
  • Patricia Brogna, Doctor of Political and Social Science, National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM. (10 min)
  • Mercedes Carrillo, Legal Officer, Area of rights of People with Disabilities , OAS Department of Social Inclusion. (10 min)

Moderator: Alexandra Barrantes (OAS-RIPSO)

Please note that this Seminar will be conducted in Spanish.


According to the United Nations, more than one billion people in the world have one or more physical, sensory, intellectual or psychical disability, constituting the largest minority in the world. This represents about 15% of the world population (estimated in 2010). [1] 80% of these people live in developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It is estimated that the number of people with disabilities is growing due to an aging population and a global increase in chronic health problems associated with disability, disabling consequences of noncommunicable diseases, poverty, natural disasters and situations of violence and occupation that many of our countries have.

Disability directly affects vulnerable populations; several studies indicate that people with disabilities are over-represented in populations living in poverty and extreme poverty; and that causes vary and are linked to each other in complex ways. The same poverty and vulnerability exacerbate situations of disability due to lack of attention and timely care.

As part of efforts to improve the situation of discrimination and exclusion, 18 Latin American countries have signed and ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (CIADDIS-OAS), 1999, which has been operated for 15 years in the region and is binding on its States Parties. Subsequently, the OAS General Assembly the Declaration of the Decade of the Americas for Persons with Disabilities (2006-2016) adopted on 6 June 2006 and, on June 5, 2007, its corresponding Action Programme (2006-2016). Similarly, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) 10 years ago, which has been signed and ratified by most countries in Latin America.

Although all these instruments are in force and are binding on states parties, greater efforts are still needed for meaningful practices to be displayed in its implementation, harmonizing its provisions in domestic legal systems are required, and in compliance with the instruments state standards and force, especially in terms of social inclusion and equity.

Some of the guiding questions for this session include:

  • How are the concepts of disability with poverty and social exclusion are linked?
  • How has the paradigm of patients with disability changed for the people?
  • What progress and difficulties are evident in the region in achieving a true educational and labor inclusion of people with disabilities in order to ensure their access to labor markets, their independence and autonomy and eradicate the vicious cycle of poverty?

[1] World Report on Disability of the World Health Organization and the World Bank (2011).

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