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Educational, Scientific and
Report on Using Information and Communication
Technologies (ICTs) in Education
for Persons with Disabilities
Educational, Scientific and
Pilar Samaniego (South America)
Sanna-Mari Laitamo and Estela Valerio (Central America and Mexico)
Cristina Francisco (The Caribbean)
Pilar Samaniego Consultant for South America
Sanna-Mari Laitamo and Estela Valerio Consultants for Central America and Mexico
Cristina Francisco Consultant for the Caribbean
COORDINATION OF THE STUDY
Rosa M. González
Adviser for Communication and Information in the Andean Countries
Representation to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela
Veintimilla E9-53 between Tamayo and Plaza
Telephone: (593-2) 252-8911 www.unesco.org/quito
Trust for the Americas
Organization of American States (OAS)
Washington DC. 20006
Telephone: (202) 458-3815 www.trustfortheamericas.org
Martha Baquero, Laura Ciudad-Rioja, Carlo Angelico, Lucía García-López
Trust for the Americas
Diana Andrade, Pamela Molina, David Rojas, Vanessa Ramírez, María Liliana Mor
We would like to acknowledge the valuable work of the three consultants and the experts on this topic in
each country involved, for their dedication and interest in bringing out this report and for the worthy results
obtained. We would also like to thank every person interviewed for their disinterested collaboration, and all
This research project was made possible thanks to the funding by UNESCO and the Trust for the Americas,
Concha Foundation in Colombia.
Quito, Ecuador, 2012
1st edition: March 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons:
FOREWORD ............................................................................................................................................................ 9
Background ...................................................................................................................................................................... 11
Objective ......................................................................................................................................................................... 12
Methodological design ...................................................................................................................................................... 12
Findings ............................................................................................................................................................................ 13
International references and domestic normative framework .......................................................................................... 14
Approach to using ICTs in education for persons with disabilities ................................................................................... 19
Good practices ................................................................................................................................................................. 23
Conclusions and recommendations ................................................................................................................................. 32
CENTRAL AMERICA AND MEXICO
Introduction ...................................................................................................................................................................... 34
Analysis of the national normative framework, laws and policies .................................................................................... 34
Approach to using ICTs in education for persons with disabilities (assessment and analysis of usage) ......................... 37
Good practices ................................................................................................................................................................. 42
Conclusions on good practices ........................................................................................................................................ 50
Most important challenges in the Central American region and Mexico .......................................................................... 50
Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................................... 51
Recommendations ........................................................................................................................................................... 51
Countries of the Caribbean region and use of ICTs ......................................................................................................... 54
Analysis of the normative framework/disability, education, ICTs ...................................................................................... 54
Presentation on good practices ....................................................................................................................................... 62
Obstacles encountered .................................................................................................................................................... 65
Conclusions ..................................................................................................................................................................... 65
Challenges to highlight in the three regions ..................................................................................................................... 68
Conclusions from the study .............................................................................................................................................. 68
Recommendations from the study .................................................................................................................................... 69
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND WEBGRAPHY ..................................................................................................... 71
Pursuant to its mandate, the United Nations Educational, Scientifc and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
promotes free circulation of ideas using words, images and encouragement for learning, enhanced by
information and communication technologies (ICTs). The UNESCO Programme pursues strategies designed
to increase the use of ICTs in acquiring and exchanging knowledge, to reduce disparities in access to
information and knowledge, particularly by fostering access for persons with disabilities, local communities,
indigenous peoples and minority groups. Therefore, UNESCO’s action focuses on ensuring equitable,
workable access to information for all, as a fundamental prerequisite to creating the knowledge society that
is still out of reach for most persons.
ICTs are not just devices such as computers, radios, telephones cell phones and connectivity, but also
entail the possibility they open up for persons to create, share and acquire knowledge. To close the “digital
divide”, stress is initially placed on installing computing hardware and infrastructure and ensuring access and
connectivity. However, UNESCO has always emphasized the importance of the “intangible” components of
ICTs, the dimensions of contents, policies and capacity-building, which are equally fundamental to narrow
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), organized in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunisia in 2005,
centered on the potential of ICTs and on the challenges they pose worldwide. The main aim of this Summit
and its follow-up has been to encourage collaboration and dialogue the world over to “build a people-
centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access,
utilize and share information and knowledge”, as the Geneva Declaration of Principles reads. UNESCO’s
specifc contribution to WSIS lies in the emphasis placed on setting up integrating societies of knowledge and
on the human dimension of such societies.
Cultural and linguistic diversity, essential aspects of cultural identity, traditions and religions, is also crucial
for dialogue among cultures, international cooperation and sustainable development in information societies.
UNESCO and other fellow participants consider persons with disabilities as one of the most important issues
included in the WSIS Action Plan. This Plan places education, knowledge, information and communication
at the center of human progress, activity and welfare; helps create societies trained to manage information;
and facilitates universal, generalized, egalitarian, non-discriminatory, user-friendly access to information and
knowledge for persons with disabilities, considering that ICTs offer them great possibilities to enhance their
productive capacity and facilitate their social participation.
The Trust for the Americas is a non-proft organization cooperating with the Organization of American
States (OAS), established in 1997 to promote participation by private and public sectors in strategic projects
conducive to attaining that international agency’s main goals. The Trust seeks to empower and increase civil
society capacities by establishing networks with local organizations, alliances with the private and public
sectors and skills for sharing “know-how” and good practices with the different countries.
The major opportunities provided by information and communication technologies as indispensable
development tools have been a fundamental working area for the Trust. In the context of the Inter-American
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (1999), the Trust decided to promote the rights
and opportunities of persons with disabilities by creating training centers on ICTs and to build psychosocial
and workplace-related competencies to improve their economic opportunities and enable participants to
become more independent in their lives, directly beneftting their families and impacting the local community,
promoting inclusion and generating genuine short-, medium- and long-term changes.
This work has aligned not only the international concepts covered by the Millennium Development Goals,
but has also tapped the dynamics of public and private sector participation and work, eliciting support from
national and local governments and international cooperation agencies, empowering the “third sector”
(NGOs, universities, foundations), and recognizing the balance between local needs and global behaviors
that mold patterns of work and facilitate replication and sustainability for this outreach. All the above has
borne in mind the new parameters facilitating this work, such as the Decade for Persons with Disabilities in
the Americas (2006-2016) declared by the OAS, and formal adoption by the UN of the Convention for the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006.
Finally, this initiative has expanded and currently includes centers for youth at risk and victims of armed
confict (demobilized and displaced persons), with a total at this writing of some 100 centers distributed
among 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, which also promote coordination of networks of
stakeholders to achieve social and economic inclusion of these communities in conditions of vulnerability by
strengthening the societal pyramid at its base and engaging in public policy advocacy.
The “Report on Using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Education for Persons with
Disabilities” presented herewith is the outgrowth of a joint initiative by UNESCO and the Trust for the
Americas. It consisted of a signifcant study, country by country in South America, Central America, Mexico
and the Caribbean, elucidating achievements and shortfalls, while demonstrating that democratizing free
access to ICTs for persons with disabilities in the feld of education is an attainable goal. As a result, this
publication provides us with a meaningful assessment of the status of access to ICTs for such persons and
identifes both the good practices and the problems and pending needs that require the most support. It also
evinces the need to enhance access to ICTs and the duty for all societal stakeholders, both governmental
and non-governmental, as well as international organizations, to work toward attaining this goal.
UNESCO and the Trust for the Americas hope that this report will be a reference work for planning future
projects and adopting public policies aiming for inclusion and free access to ICTs for persons with disabilities.
Adviser for Communication and Information in the Andean Countries
Offcer in Charge of the UNESCO Offce in Quito
Representation to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela
Trust for the Americas
This “Report on Using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Education for Persons
with Disabilities” has been developed under UNESCO’s Major Programme V, “Communication and
Information”. The ultimate purpose was to consolidate a compendium to contribute to applying Main
Line of Action 3 “Fostering universal access to information and knowledge and the development
of infostructures” (Activities V.2.2.3 and V.2.2.4, expected results 7 and 10) and the project entitled
“Development of inclusive information policies using ICTs in education for persons with disabilities
(ICT4ED4PWD)”. The study was conducted in 21 countries of the region.
This is a joint effort by UNESCO (through its Quito offce) and the Trust for the Americas,
organizations who advocate for the right for persons with disabilities to access education,
information and knowledge.
UNESCO promotes the use of ICTs among its partners by proposals for governments and
educational institutions to achieve genuine pedagogical transformation.
The Trust for the Americas is a non-proft organization, working under the Organization
of American States (OAS). Under the Americas Declaration of the Decade for Persons
with Disabilities, since 2005 the Trust has pursued, in Latin America and the Caribbean,
a Programme of Employment Opportunities through Technology in the Americas (POETA),
oriented toward promoting employment for persons with disabilities through training in ICT.
The POETA Program works through an alliance with Microsoft and currently has over 100 IT
centers in 20 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The overall goal of the study is to provide recommendations to improve information policies,
strategies for using ICTs to educate persons with disabilities and incorporate issues related to
disability, oriented toward UNESCO Member States, and especially targeting decision-makers,
national and regional educational institutions, organizations and associative movements of and
for persons with disabilities.
This research has been fundamentally of a documentary nature. It was conceived in the
interpretative paradigm, with a qualitative approach referring to cases of good practices. The
methodological proposal was frst geared toward a literature review, and subsequently a more
ethnographic slant. The instruments, initially designed by UNESCO, were modifed from a regional
perspective and depended on respondents’ willingness to reply. Good practices were selected on
the basis of references through surveys and probed by cross-referenced research.
The following guiding criteria was assumed for a general classifcation of good practices:
• Policies on accessibility of information.
• Strategies for use of ICTs in education.
• Innovative use of ICTs (accessible, user-friendly and adaptable).
• Use of assistive / adapted technologies (ATs).
• Use of open educational resources (OERs).
• Use of freeware and open-source software (FOSS) resources.
• Use of open document format (ODF).
• Use of Web accessibility standards (W3C).
Analysis covered the region’s policies regarding issues and application of on-line instruments
to gather information on key stakeholders, service-provider organizations, and associative
movements related to ICTs, education and disability. Good practices were detected by querying
governmental and civil society informants, according to the evaluation questionnaires flled out
by these organizations’ respondents and cross-comparison of information among stakeholders.
The report’s fndings make recommendations for UNESCO’s Member States. They are based on
the literature review and statements by decision-makers, representatives of schools and training
for employment, associative movements and service provider organizations. Non-responses are
considered as a way of responding. Participation is oriented toward improving information policies,
strategies for access to and use of ICTs to educate persons with disabilities.
There are care models that coexist and overlap. For the purposes of this study, the Social Model
was assumed, entailing collective solutions of an inter-sectoral nature, to establish the necessary
adjustments to enhance inclusion. This calls for re-structuring the social system to enable human,
political and civil rights for persons with disabilities.
The study’s conclusions are general and are subject to change apace with the giddy evolution
of technology. We make no pretense to completeness regarding the norms and public policies
of the countries analyzed, as this is only an approach to the current situation on the basis of
available information and the responses received. Secondary sources were used both because of
the shortness of time and the limited resources available for the research.
INTERNATIONAL REFERENCES AND DOMESTIC NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK
In a context of megadiversity and inequality, specifcally inequity in access to education and
learning for persons with disabilities, and asymmetries – both among countries and within
each country – regarding access to the benefts of ICTs, South America has begun facing
new challenges offering the opportunity to transform its educational systems in a vast horizon
of social cohesion and full inclusion where each person – as a rights-holder – contributes
genuinely to human and humanizing development.
SOURCE: Pilar Samaniego – Prepared by the author
Progress is notable in terms of ratifying such international referents as the Inter-American
Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities
(OAS, 1999) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN, 2006), as well
as the commitments deriving from the proposal “Educational Goals 2021: The education we
want for the bicentennial generation” (OEI, 2007), which is closely linked with the Millennium
Declaration (UN, 2000), following up on the World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien,
1990 – Dakar, 2000) and initiatives such as the eLAC2007 and eLAC 2010 Regional Plans.
These are instruments that contribute to constructing the term “disability” with a clear orientation
toward a social model of care, in which the application of Information and Communication
Technologies (ICTs), as well as Assistive Technologies (ATs), favor accessibility and – consequently
– personal autonomy, guaranteeing access to education understood as access to learning and
to participation, to communication and information, to mobility and to the physical environment.
They are also universal design principles that call on us to take all possible users’ needs into
account, challenging the educational system whenever their audience does not include people
with disabilities. Domotic
educational systems are an ethical and creative challenge that positions
ICTs not as a goal in themselves, but a means – especially when the last report by the World
Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank Group states that 15% of the population has
some sort of disability.
From a legal perspective, the countries that ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities undertake a commitment to ensure and promote full exercise of all human rights
and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities, an obligation to promote research and
development as well as availability and use of new technologies in a broad range: information and
communications, mobility aids, technical devices and suitable support technologies, with priority
for affordable ones (Article 4). Since ICTs are cross-cutting, this inherently calls for measures to
ensure access for persons with disabilities, under equal conditions, to the physical environment,
transport, information and communications (Article 9). Unavoidably, these measures must include
identifying and eliminating barriers that prevent or impede access, use, development, production
and distribution of systems and technologies. In terms of effciency and effectiveness, the strategy
lies in applying the criteria of Universal Design.
Ensuring exercise of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including freedom to gather,
receive and provide information and ideas under equal conditions with other persons and through
the form of communication they require (Article 21), entails adopting measures so that persons
with disabilities get direct access to public information, in a timely manner and without additional
costs, and establishing mechanisms to encourage – not just through penalties – fulfllment of
obligations for accessibility, by the media and service providing entities.
An analysis of international arrangements reveals that agreements made at top levels of
political power have been transferred without any harmonization with domestic norms. There
are elements that have not been covered by national legislation, and monitoring mechanisms
are insuffcient due to lack of resources. Possibilities of structural changes or institutional
actions – entailing time and the commitment to turn them into public policies – remain remote.
According to Jean-Claude Thoening, policies are viewed as the action of public authorities
within society. The components to be taken into consideration include: a cascade system
focusing on the defcit and not the potential, the preeminence of a regular system that expels
difference, exclusion preventing initial access, persistence of special education that, as a
subsystem, refuses to shift its orientation toward supporting a single educational system
providing Education for All, access to ICTs and to ATs that are so remote for most of the
population, the lack of resources and strategies to respond effectively to the challenges
posed for the system, institution and classroom by individual learning needs. The serious
underlying risk is that the initial “contentment” produced by ratifcation by a State is followed
by disappointment and discouragement at not going beyond discourse, deepening the learned
helplessness that Seligman has spoken of.
1 Domotics: Integrating technology into the intelligent design of an enclosed space. http://es.wikipedia.org/
Although generalizations are not applicable because of cultural, linguistic and economic diversity
among countries and within each country, there has been positive evolution in terms of human
rights under constitutions and in laws regarding education, disability and ICTs. For example, the
right to education has different readings in different constitutions: in some cases, it is understood
as a human right; in others, as a personal right; and, in a few cases, as a social right. The countries
that have renewed their Constitution fairly recently have incorporated a more updated wording on
disability, as well as more concrete sensitivity toward these persons’ right to education.
Further, most constitutional texts have the right to education for persons with disabilities under
the right to education for citizens in general, which is normally completed by recognition of the
right to equality and to not be discriminated against for reasons of origin, race, sex, language,
religion, opinion, economic status or otherwise. The “otherwise” is understood to include
health conditions, in general, and disability, in particular. Only a few countries have more
extensive, well-grounded foundations for the right to education for persons with disabilities
(Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela).
Like the Constitutions, general laws on education in the countries of South America state
that education is mandatory and free of charge for access without discrimination. Years
of schooling are being increased before and after the primary level. Several establish
governmental obligations more directly (Argentina, Chile and Uruguay). Due to the profusion
of legal frameworks within each country, the challenge lies not in creating new norms, but in
reviewing and harmonizing existing ones.
The document prepared by Massimo Amadio
shows that the concern for “educational quality
for all”, a constant in offcial reports, clearly indicates that this is considered the primary
challenge of educational policy; however, this is quantifed (enrollment) but not yet qualifed.
National policies are very focused on serving students with disabilities, but few specifc
plans or programs target educational inclusion more broadly in the long term. These plans
or programs, although they make some conceptual headway, fail to attain a broader, more
integrated concept beyond just disabilities. The criteria most frequently associated with
inclusive education are development of policies and promotion of pedagogical practices to
“serve diversity”, linked to disability and giftedness.
Ensuring non-discrimination and equal opportunities in terms of access, continuation and
educational achievement is the framework in which equity is promoted. For example,
Argentina’s report presents the broadest conceptualization; Brazil expresses difference as a
value; Ecuador proposes a holistic integrating approach; Paraguay emphasizes a community
for learning together; Peru positions persons at the center as the fundamental agents of their
own educational process; Uruguay is guided by universal exercise of rights, and Venezuela
values diversity as a necessary element to develop education.
From a postmodern perspective of expressing all reality in fgures, and recalling that this is
the only entry key for funding agencies, quantifcation is widespread although it often lacks
rigor and cannot be contrasted among the different conceptual frameworks that are applied.
To move forward in this regard, in 2010 UNESCO proposed the methodology to consolidate
a Regional Educational Information System on Students with Disability (SIRIED). Data are
available on special education, particularly the number of schools, students served and
2 Presented at the Regional Meeting on “Inclusive education in Latin America: Identifying and analyzing
progress and pending challenges” (Santiago, Chile, November 2009).
teaching staff; or data is given on enrollment of students with disabilities in regular schools
(integration?), without much specifc information. There are few references to data on students
with disabilities who are not served or who have been expelled from the regular system
and even from special education. There is not much information on curricular development
regarding inclusive education but there are references to upgrading because the overall
student population falls short of the minimal performance for their grade level. No information
is available on students with disabilities regarding the Inclusion Index (Tony Booth and Mel
Ainscow), or the development index of Education for All.
Amadio says the reports reveal two types of approaches that can be seen as complementary:
(i) design and commissioning an array of unifed, integrated strategies for socio-educational
support; and (ii) redistributive and affrmative actions targeting the most vulnerable social
groups in order to fght against the causes of exclusion. Four problems are distinguished that
are often mentioned in reports regarding inclusive education:
1. Deep-rooted negative social attitudes and discriminatory social practices.
2. A well-consolidated tradition in special education or inclusive education as a synonym for
services targeting only students with disabilities or students with special educational needs
(SENs), which paradoxically interfere with the adoption of a broadened, comprehensive vision
of inclusive education.
3. Budget constraints and under-funding.
4. The gap often separating the principles adopted and curricular proposals from teaching
practices in the classroom. Evidently, one key element is the teacher, and proposals for initial
and in-service training, as shown in several reports, must ensure that educational personnel
has the necessary training and competencies to meet the interests and needs that each
student has regarding the system, institution and classroom.
Since the second half of the 1990s, the giddy growth of ICTs regarding access to mobile
telephony and Internet services, as well as incorporating computers into activities, has
obliged governments in Latin America to move into public policies from the perspective of
Guerra and Jordán (2010) discuss a learning process combining exogenous and endogenous
factors, with highly dynamic variables. The exogenous factors include: the country’s level
of development, political stability and orientation, and awareness of the importance of
information. The endogenous factors, subject to political decisions and resolutions by the
Executive Branch, include: the degree of participation and consensus to be achieved, the
hierarchical level of policy decisions and the agency responsible, the quality of administrative
management and availability of resources.
In general terms, policies are oriented toward narrowing gaps between Latin America and
the developed countries of Europe, as well as within countries, and promote creation of
information societies. Information society policies are those initiatives addressing this concept
holistically, oriented toward mass access to ICTs, to training human resources and generating
electronic contents and applications in the diverse sectors of society; they entail explicitly
formulating e-governance strategies, ICT policies for education or software development
initiatives, conceived and implemented as part of an integrated policy under a national plan.
Going from the lowest to the highest:
Paraguay is in the initial phase of frst-generation
policies; Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador, in the framework of frst-generation policies, have moved
toward the formulation phase; Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela are in the phase of
implementing their frst-generation digital agendas; Uruguay and Chile are in the stage of
implementing their second-generation ICT policies.
In Argentina and Brazil, attempts to get a national ICT policy have been held up by other factors,
including the country’s administrative structure. A large number of entities competing for partial
leadership, and federal government intervention, are additional factors slowing consensus to
adopt a national program. In other cases, such as Bolivia and Ecuador, exogenous factors
such as changes in government, along with structural and administrative changes, have made
it diffcult to continue implementation. They defned their frst strategies in 2005, but remain in
the formulation phase due to revisions and reformulations of initial proposals.
Seven countries’ national ICT strategies are considered defnitive. The institutional framework
for implementation is inter-agency in three countries (Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador), four directly
under the Presidency of the Republic (Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay) and one with
a specifc ministry (Venezuela).
Incorporating ICTs in education depends largely on each country’s educational system and
the coordination of education with production sectors. So:
• Argentina incorporates ICTs into the curriculum to train specifc human resources in these
technologies, in addition to forming R+D+I (Research, Development and Innovation)
alliances among the production sectors.
• Uruguay includes citizen educational oriented toward the job market, driving projects in research
and education, developing a national system of innovation and scientifc publications, among
others. Further, complementing digital policy actions – as a policy in its own right – the CEIBAL
plan – applying the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative – covers areas of instructional
infrastructure, curricular reform and digital inclusion.
• Chile focuses its actions on developing educational contents and digital capacities (in teachers
and students), ensuring optimal infrastructure and improving educational management. This
vision is less broad than the previous ones.
The infuence of the world economic-fnancial crisis is signifcant. There are insuffcient
grounds to determine how far this will materialize beyond political pronouncements. No
specifc measures regarding ICTs and education of persons with disabilities are observed.
From the programmatic goals of Regional Plans, e-LAC 2007 and e-LAC 2010, coordinated
harmonization of cyber-legislation is a priority that gave rise to a comparative and
prospective study from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
eLAC initiatives have also fostered the creation of the Observatory for the Information Society
in Latin America and the Caribbean (OSILAC), sponsored by ECLAC, to produce, compile,
process and disseminate data, indicators and methodologies, standardizing and harmonizing
statistics on ICTs, gathered at a subregional, national and local level; as well as the Institute
for Connectivity in the Americas (ICA), of the International Development Research Center
(IDRC), to perfect information on the technologies that are part of the Information Society.
3 Source: GUERRA, M. and JORDÁN, V. (2010).
Norms on the issues regarding e-signatures and authentication, consumer protection,
protection for personal data and computer crime is the scaffolding to materialize the copyright
and related rights, and domain names; in the region this is outlined in constitutions and various
laws. In the realm of intellectual property, there is greater harmonization of norms than in
other topics due to the signing of the Paris Agreement and the Bern Agreement. Similarly, the
Treaty of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on Copyright (WCT) has been
signed and is in effect in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru,
while Bolivia, Uruguay and Venezuela have also signed it, but is not yet in effect in those
countries. Laws largely agree in protecting authors, as well as rights-holders and copyright
owners. Crimes regarding illicit reproduction have also been described in most of these laws.
However, piracy would seem to continue and, what is more important, there is a diametrical
difference between conversion and distribution of books in accessible formats.
APPROACH TO USING ICTS IN EDUCATION FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
The use of ICTs in education for persons with disabilities can be judged by the proportion of public
schools that have Internet access. Out of all countries in the region, only Uruguay is over the
Little information is available on ICTs in schools and the relationship between public libraries
The comparative study of the documents available and the information sent by governmental
agencies and civil-society organizations has yielded the main common denominators.
Education and ICTs
• Education for persons with disabilities is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education.
• Most students with disabilities attend special schools; to a lesser degree, integrated or
inclusive schools or open universities; distance education is a possibility considered by only
• There is indiscriminate use of terminology, generating confusion between integrated and
• ICTs have been incorporated to some degree at the primary and secondary levels, abut
more in pre and post-graduate education. There is a considerable proportion in professional
courses and in non-formal education.
• Incorporating ICTs is often limited to “computing class”. No changes have been noted in
the curriculum oriented toward using ICTs as pedagogical tools incorporated into different
• Use of ICTs to educate students with disabilities is very limited.
• In general terms, teachers have little knowledge about ATs.
• The use of ICTs and ATs is more frequent in large cities. There are un-systematized
experiences and access depends on the family’s economic level.
• The use of ICTs for teachers’ own activities is incipient, mostly limited to Internet, email and
• The use of ICTs as tools for classroom processes, although it is recognized theoretically,
does not materialize, above all because of a lack of teacher training, too many students and
too low a budget for hardware. The average time that teachers and students use Internet
in the classroom is very low, at most two hours a week, mostly involving digital Web-based
content and games.
• There are efforts to hold training events for teachers but they have fallen short.
• The average student-teacher ratio varies greatly according to the type of school: it ranges
from 25-30 for regular, integrated and inclusive schools, from 5-15 for special education.
• Access to Internet in rural zones is quite low, and only moderate in urban areas.
• Educational packages, such as encyclopedias on CDs, are mostly not accessible for persons
with disabilities using adapted or assistive technology.
• More people are needed with training in tifotechnology (for the blind).
• Far from a right, it is viewed as a privilege to have volunteers for reading, computer terminals
with scanners and screen readers, CDs / audio tapes and e-texts.
Accessible formats and free-access resources
ación para el empleo
• The most frequently used technological platforms are: television, radio, mobile telephones
• Radio, television and other traditional ways of broadcasting information, and other new
media, are not accessible for persons with disabilities. There are some exceptions such as
presidential reports and some newscasts.
• Very few programs are “close-captioned” or audio-described. Argentina and Brazil have
some, but more as an exception than as continual practice.
• Most Websites are not accessible although standards call for this.
• In general, access to information and communication is a function of the economic level of
the person with disabilities and their family.
• The availability of textbooks depends on the restrictions in different countries.
• Books can be obtained in accessible formats. They are generally in places offering specifc
services such as special education schools, some of which have been supporting educational
integration. Occasionally, public libraries and universities have them, but rarely in primary or
secondary schools. Initiatives such as Tifolibros are valuable, but far short of meeting the
• Regionally, free / open resources are unknown or little-known and consequently little-used.
Screen readers are emphasized; to a lesser degree, free-format documents, open virtual
courses, resources such as the Gutenberg Project and Wikipedia; and much less alternative
licenses such as Creative Commons, open standards such as Daisy for publications and
• Chile reports on organizations specializing in ICTs for students with disabilities.
• With strength and institutional positioning, the National Ministry of Education of Colombia
reports on strategies implemented from the perspective of inclusive education at the different
levels of education with input from different governmental, academic and civil society
• In higher education, there is some use of Open Educational Resources (OERs).
Vocational training and education for employment
Vocational training centers and education for employment fail to meet users’ needs. Most
operate with governmental funding and are located, especially, in the larger cities. Accessibility
is not guaranteed and instructors know about the contents of their feld of action but are
unfamiliar with the instructional means to facilitate access to knowledge.
Although persons with disabilities can enter, they prefer the few specifc centers, where
training is oriented toward serving the public, basic use of computing software, applying ICTs
for employment and self-employment. It is complemented by developing social skills and
knowledge about rights, although not necessarily as well integrated as might be desirable.
They generally do not have supervision overseeing performance within these centers.
Information is not available about the number of persons with disabilities who have successfully
gotten a job after completing the vocational training and other courses. The relations and
alliances established indicate that benefciaries are duplicated in the databases of the different
organizations providing these services.
Adapted Technologies and Free / Open-Source Software
Adapted / assistive technologies are available depending on the economic situation of the
home of the person with disabilities. Software is often copied (pirated) for computers and
mobile telephones, which are sold to the users.
Concrete examples of the technologies most often used by persons with disabilities include:
Screen readers, amplifers and magnifying glasses, Braille, Dragon, notebooks and PCs,
NVDA and freeware, e-text and Daisy. Costs, again, are high, except when donated. Artisanal,
hand-made support devices are an alternative.
For nine countries, Spanish is recognized as the majority language; for Brazil, Portuguese.
Free and open software AT solutions are available, such as: screen readers, text-to-voice and
voice-to-text software, optical character recognition software and magnifers.
5 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
On the market, mobile telephones and hand-held devices are unaffordable for most. The
assistance technologies that have caused the greatest revolution are Jaws and mobile
telephony. In terms of cost and distribution, it could be the greatest beneft to obtain screen
readers, text digitizers, communicators with systems of symbols, Netbooks, free Wif in institutions,
text-to-voice and voice-to-text software.
Challenges and recommendations
There is agreement that the greatest challenges facing the region to implement ICTs for
persons with disabilities are: lack of trained teachers, prohibitive costs, inadequate public
policy framework, limited infrastructure, and lack of exposure to emerging technologies.
The greatest obstacles for persons with disabilities and their organizations are invisibility, lack
of public policies coordinating educational-workplace-social settings, a weak legal framework
to defend rights, confusion among organizations of persons with disabilities and service
providing organizations, lack of knowledge about rights and enforcement mechanisms, not
knowing about the advantages of using ICTs and ATs, and few possibilities for access.
Therefore, it is recommended to effectively enforce inclusive, continual laws and public
policies; to publicize the achievements of persons with disabilities and good institutional
practices; to mainstream disability in higher education curricula; to train teachers to address
diversity with knowledge of ICTs and ATs; to promote training in accessibility with principles
of universal design in areas involving Website and operating systems design, programming
and manufacture. Persons with disabilities must also be more involved in decision-making,
consciousness-raising for the public sector, allocation of governmental resources, mass
information and sensitization campaigns, educational plans grounded in inclusive principles
with continuity to employment insertion programs.
It is considered that the government’s priority should be to keep electoral offers and abide by
current norms, invest in research into ATs and ICTs in general, decrease costs, and undertake
a national digital literacy program.
Experience in other countries shows that it is desirable to implement ongoing use of ICTs in
classrooms, curricular fexibility, organizational and administrative innovation, and teachers
who develop professional competencies in ICTs and ATs.
Assembling the disability-ITCs and ATs-education puzzle, with persons with disabilities at the
center as the rights-holders, aiming to provide access to learning and participation, we fnd
how spheres of action ft in with concrete curricular changes.
SOURCE: Pilar Samaniego - Prepared by the author
The starting premise is that a good practice is a systematized, documented experience, grounded
in the application of innovative methods of excellence, to contribute to enabling persons with
disabilities to actually enjoy their rights and consequently truly improve their living conditions. A
good practice generates an impact on the community and can be replicated in other settings, with
the proper contextualization. Although the region is just beginning to use ICTs to educate persons
with disabilities, respondents report such valuable initiatives as: CARE, CAMAC and Special School
Nº 1 – Irregulares Motores (Argentina); Fe y Alegría (Bolivia); National Learning Service (SENA)
and Guerrero Academy of Arts (Colombia); National Union of Blind People of Uruguay, Solutions
A&C (Uruguay); and a regional association, the Latin American Union of Blind People (ULAC).
Five good practices are summarized below. The organizations responsible for implementing them
flled in the questionnaire designed for this purpose. To learn about the CEIBAL Plan, we visited
Montevideo; the National Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Eastern
Republic of Uruguay, the University of the Republic and the CEIBAL Center to Support Education for
Children and Adolescents – Technological Laboratory of Uruguay provided signifcant assistance.
Plan CEIBAL. Política pública de Uruguay
CEIBAL Plan. Public policy of Uruguay
The CEIBAL Plan, inspired in the One Laptop per Child (OLPD) project,
is Uruguay’s socio-
educational project, created by decree on 18 April 2007 and implemented jointly by the Ministry
of Education and Culture (MEC), the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay (LATU), the National
Telecommunications Administration (ANTEL) and the National Public Education Administration
(ANEP). Its main features are its nationwide scope, strategic principles of equal opportunities
in access to technology, democratizing knowledge and reinforcing learning in schools and in
students’ experiential context. Consequently, Ceibal’s leadership is multi-sectoral.
6 Presented by Nicholas Negroponte at the 2005 World Economic Forum.
Luis Garibaldi, National Director of Education, Ministry of Education and Culture of the Eastern
also the name of the national flower of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay: the Flower of the Ceibo
CEIBAL PLAN: COORDINATED, LED AND CONDUCTED MULTI-SECTORALLY
Concretely, this public policy consists of giving personal computers with a wireless connection to
the student population and teachers of public schools. Beyond learning to use the technological
resource, this implies modeling integration into the classroom, to ensure access to enhanced
learning, develop abilities and attitudes, guarantee connectivity, train and coach, monitor and
undertake, and meet the emerging needs for implementation, among others. It has impacted
society at large, beyond the direct benefciaries. As a large-scale initiative, as implementation
advances it has incorporated components and support, forming the CEIBAL Flor de Ceibo Center,
the central project of the University of the Republic, Channel CEIBAL and the RAP-CEIBAL
Support Network, which has volunteers nationwide.
Special education schools were included from the outset of the CEIBAL Plan. For students with
visual disability, computers are adapted to users’ needs with the Jaws software for blind students
and a magnifying glass to enlarge images for those whose vision requires this. They have also
incorporated the pedagogical and instructional needs outlined by teachers. For the XO laptops,
specifc software and hardware have been developed. Adaptations have been done by LATU,
with collaboration by the Teletón Foundation. Each school specifcally studies the needs of each
student, to make the required adaptations. For students with motor disability, the School of
Engineering has also provided eight devices and fve programs they developed to handle laptops.
The impact evaluation by the Disability Studies Group (GEDIS), of the University of the Republic
Historically, Uruguay has featured a major rift in access to symbolic and material goods for
the population with disabilities, viewing them as objects of assistance rather than subjects
with rights and full possibilities to develop their capacities. The fact that the CEIBAL Plan also
incorporates girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities could be considered an example
of genuine inclusion in the expansion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
Defnitely, the possibility to generate and sustain inclusive societies entails the possibility of
understanding human diversity in its multiple determinations, where intrasocietal relations
are grounded in recognition of the rights and citizenship of each constituent comprising that
society. Conceptualizing disability from the social model makes it possible to transcend
individual burdens and recognize collective responsibilities. [Our bold-facing.]
(...) using ICTs in teaching and learning with girls and boys in a situation of disability,
through their XO laptop, contributes to expanding their capacities to learn, relate
and enjoy recreation. New, innovative forms of communication, expression and
understanding emerge. They encounter new ways to interact, communicate, relate,
read, draw, play and learn. [Our bold-facing.]
Studies by the University of the Republic yield two fundamental components: this process will
continue apace with implementation and, although digital immigrants have been fearful, their
positive attitude has enabled them to engage.
Training for teachers, as the sine qua non for the CEIBAL Plan, has been provided by such entities
as the Free Foundation, averaging 100 hours in a semi-distance modality (40% on-site and 60%
distance). Contents start with a conceptual framework and get to using Web 2.0 as a tool for
curricular management and design.
In July 2010 the Mate Network
asked the CEIBAL Plan authorities to include students with visual
disability when they began distributing computers in secondary schools, with adapted “ceibalitas”.
One of the main lessons learned is to see how just handing out hardware does not change practices
or improve processes; the educational system must be perceived as a whole, in constant interaction.
CILSA. Integrated approach and alliances - Argentina
8 Sample training proposal:
9 In Uruguay, this network has a center to produce materials on accessible support media, a public
cybercafé devoted to inclusive education for youth with visual disability, as well as supporting teachers, family
members and technicians working in this feld.
Since 2010, CILSA has implemented the National Program of Study Grants and Opportunities to
promote access by persons with disabilies and in situations of vulnerability to higher education,
vocational training and knowledge about technological tools, favoring educational, social and
workplace inclusion. CILSA’s lines of action are internally coordinated, and share their target
groups: Program of Scholarships for Higher Education, Program of Employment Opportunities
through Technology in the Americas (POETA) and e-opportunities to give virtual vocational training
through distance education, with offcial certifcates.
The Trust for the Americas Foundation began POETA in 2004 (Guatemala) and it is one of their
most successful programs. Its coverage is hemispheric: they currently have over 100 centers in
Latin America. This innovative initiative opens up opportunities for new population groups with
clear, effective management grounded in ICTs. They have trained over 31,000 benefciaries and
indirectly worked with 130,000 persons in different countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
POETA is implemented in the different countries through local partners. Since 2007, in the city of
Santa Fe, CILSA works directly with the community; these services and training promote inclusion
and effcient use of Technologies Adapted for Persons with Disabilities. The Trust for the Americas
contributes software and technology adapted from Microsoft. CILSA has replicated this experience
in other regions of Argentina.
POETA is an inclusive technological community center oriented toward workplace insertion through
access to and training in ICTs, with special emphasis on people in situations of vulnerability.
The components of the training are: using Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Internet, and
preparing to access the world of work. They offer a basic course for beginners and another
advanced course for those who already know some computing. Over 450 persons with disabilities
and low economic resources have been trained under POETA. Although the gender approach is
not emphasized, over 70% are female. Most are from 16 to 50 years of age, although some
senior citizens are also involved. In addition to the competencies facilitating inclusion in the labor
market, they have developed social and emotional abilities that have impacted their daily lives.
With increased self-esteem and autonomy, they have expressed their desire to get jobs, open
businesses and continue studying.
A high percentage of the Program’s participants had not concluded their primary or secondary
studies. To provide an effective response, these actions have coordinated with different
governmental programs and compensatory academic proposals to conclude their studies.
A number of participants, motivated by their studies, decide to continue with virtual training
(e-opportunities) or begin tertiary studies by applying to the CILSA Scholarship Program.
65 persons have taken free e-opportunities since November 2010. They include persons
with motor, visual, mental and visceral disabilities from different provinces, most with secondary
studies and some with tertiary and university studies. Since March 2010, over 50 scholarship
grantees nationwide have pursued tertiary degrees, both under- and post-graduate.
(...) having ICTs and ATs has enabled us to overcome barriers, not only in access to information,
communication, education and training, but also physical and ideological barriers, achieving
not only digital literacy, but also avoiding or preventing other circuits of exclusion in these
new societies of information and communication. Participants’ performance is “teaching by
example”, and is progressively opening up opportunities that persons with disabilities could
never have aspired to. Progressively these dreams begin to become a reality. [Our bold-
National University of Colombia. Effective Impact on Academics
The national proposal in policy guidelines to support students with disabilities in Institutions of
Higher Education (IHE) born under the Inclusive Higher Education project led by the National
University of Colombia. Plans, programs and projects will focus on fve lines of intervention.
Specifc practice by the National University de Colombia refers to “creating, organizing and erecting
three academic contents accessible to under-graduate students in a situation of disability”. The
direct benefciaries are three undergraduate students and three professors; indirect benefciaries
are: the group to which each student belongs (approximately 120 students), the faculty, the
University’s National Directorate of Virtual Learning Services and the Master’s Program in
Disability and Social Inclusion (3 professors and 25 M.A. students). This inclusion encompasses
admission and coaching throughout university life to enable students to continue on to graduation.
The central players in this research are the students with disabilities and their professors. A team
of professionals from the National Directorate of Welfare, the M.A. Program in Disability and
Social Inclusion, the National Directorate of Virtual Academic Services, the National Directorate of
Libraries, and others, are contributing their human, fnancial and technological resources.
LARAMARA. Human development and inclusion – Brazil
The Brazilian Association of Assistance for the Visually Defcient provides specialized care for persons
with visual disability and orients its actions toward human development and social inclusion.
From January to August 2011, 500 new users have been served, ages 0 to 20 years, with visual disability,
60% with multiple or associated disability. The indirect benefciaries are their families, estimated at three
per person served (3,000 so far this year); some 500 teachers who have participated in training provided
by the institution, who in turn replicate the knowledge to an average of 20 colleagues in their respective
institutions; publication of a journal specializing in low vision, targeting physicians, reaching at least 300
The main products they work with: software (screen readers, magnifers) hardware (Braille printers, video
expansion systems, PDAs), optical aids (reading glasses, tele-magnifying glasses), accessibility products
for daily life (dogs, Braille, talking clocks, thermometers, pressure gauges). Curricular adaptations
according to contents, objectives and materials. Accessible installations. Toys, furniture and accessories.
The lower costs by using many local materials.
Work together with institutions, university researchers and government offcials has resulted
in positive results. Action by the Secretariat for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the
Municipal Secretariat of Education of Sao Paulo has been decisive to introduce changes to favor
inclusion of persons with disabilities.
SOURCE: Pilar Samaniego – Prepared on the basis of information received from LARAMARA www.laramara.org.br/
AGORA Uruguay. Cooperation, inclusion and association
The AGORA Program is an innovative initiative by FOAL (Foundation ONCE for Latin America),
implemented by an overall project under their main lines of action: Education, vocational training, job
insertion and associative strengthening. The countries where FOAL cooperation can undertake actions
are: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Improving employability entails a job advisory service, ranging from vocational orientation to training for
employment, work insertion and/or technological adaptation of workplaces.
SOURCE: Pilar Samaniego – Prepared on the basis of information from AGORA – Uruguay.
On 21 February 2006, AGORA began activities in Uruguay. They mainstream the use of ICTs,
design different trainings in terms of the reality of persons with visual disability who require
education, and the job market’s requirements. The situational assessment provides the basis
to plan and design each annual framework agreement, regulating the different dimensions of
action. They promote self-reliance, empowering possibilities for autonomy and independence,
reinforced by specifc training. To date, 710 users with visual disability are involved, 50.4%
men and 49.6% women.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Remarkable progress has been made in regional agreements that provide an adequate frame of
reference for the care-giving model’s social approach, although adjustments are required to harmonize
domestic norms with international referents. Human rights are evolving positively under constitutional
frameworks and in laws on education and disability. Domestic norms are so profuse that no more
new bodies of law are required, but rather a review of existing laws. There are no specifc policies on
digital inclusion, much less on the use of ICTs for persons with disabilities. Therefore, more specifc,
integrating legislation is required to ensure access, use, accessibility and usability. Economic potential
tends to compound functional capacities and access to opportunities, making it both necessary and
useful to orient public policies toward these topics.
Education by itself will not solve a multi-dimensional problem that calls for an inter-sectoral response,
but it is a component that defnes the present and builds the future. Consequently, we must increase
functional capacity through mechanisms and strategies that make access to the educational system
viable with equal opportunities, and eliminate barriers to learning, to information and to communication,
to mobility and to the physical environment. Although ICTs and ATs are not a “magic wand”, they are
the most effcient, quickest way to introduce changes in response to the dynamics of human actions.
The use of ICTs in education of persons with disabilities is still an incipient feld of action, but future
possibilities are immense, providing that public policies make the necessary budget allocations, to
make known widely and rapidly how vast this feld of operations is for educating persons with disabilities
– then benefts will reach the entire community.
Since the objective is to materialize policies in implementing units, putting policy discourse into practice
in classrooms, teachers are a decisive element. Their knowledge and expertise in managing ICTs and
ATs is the only effective guarantee for maximum optimization of ITC resources, as they learn to think at
a higher, digital-age level: designing, programming, blogging, remixing, taking part in wikis, publishing,
leading, and broadcasting.
The variability is so great that efforts must not only be focused on vocational training for the grassroots,
but also on-the-job training, through study circles or groups, inter-institutional gatherings, internships,
It is recommended for education and on-the-job training to include hardware procurement, along
with the right adaptations of software and hardware to meet the challenges posed by students with
disabilities, for the system, for the institution and for classroom management.
One desirable alternative is for special education centers to evolve into technological resource
centers, providing more than just advice and counseling. Their effectiveness and effciency would
be enhanced by knowledge of the core issues of mastering ICTs and ATs to provide a differentiating
Computers cannot and must not remain confned to computing classrooms. It is time for them to
take their place in regular classrooms, where teachers and students can access them whenever
they need to.
Structural changes are in the pipeline, but meanwhile the “power of one” can prevail: each person’s
capacity to progressively uproot backward practices and turn the curriculum into a dynamic,
Involving persons with disabilities as stakeholders in their own processes defnes the level of
relevance. Now is the time to listen carefully to their demand to become skilled experts.
Finally, we ratify and appreciate the value of progress in this region, opening up new horizons and
opportunities to act, reducing inequities and asymmetries.
Central America and Mexico
This report covers four countries from Central America: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala
and Panama; additionally, Mexico was included. In all of them, issues of disabilities and
the use of information and communication technologies in the education of persons with
disabilities were analyzed.
The methodology consisted of using three types of surveys and/or questionnaires, in addition
to audio conferences with different key stakeholders from the different countries. The surveys
gathered information on the normative framework in force regarding disabilities and ICTs, the
use of ICTs by persons with disabilities and the value of good practices using technology.
The frame of reference consists of an analysis of the national laws, policies and provisions
regarding disabilities and ICTs; issues such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities, the Constitution, the General Law on Education, strategic plans and provisions
for using ICTs, all analyzed and presented through a vision integrating all of Central America.
The use of technology in education of persons with disabilities in the region is also examined,
providing information on types of schools where persons with disabilities study, the curriculum
and the ICTs, the services available and accessibility of technology for persons with some
type of disability. Another section compiles good practices found in the participating countries,
which show the use of technology in education to effectively improve the living conditions of
persons with disabilities.
We would like to stress that, although this report is based on current referents going on in
the region, it must not be taken as an overall trend, due to the constraints encountered while
ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK, LAWS AND POLICIES
This section presents a general analysis of the laws, policies or decrees comprising the
legal framework providing the foundation on which the countries studied build and determine
their scope and participation in regulatory areas such as disability, education and use of
Normative framework regarding disabilities – access to education
1. Regarding the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, approved by the
United Nations General Assembly, all countries included in the study have signed it and
ratifed its enabling protocol. National legislative harmonization has made the most progress
in Costa Rica and Mexico. Country reports were presented by Costa Rica, El Salvador and
Mexico, but none has been analyzed yet by the Committee.
2. The impact of the Convention on specifc legislation on disabilities, or policies for education
and its relationship with ICTs, can be observed in Mexico, Costa Rica and El Salvador.
3. The Constitutions of all participating countries state that education is an inherent right of all
citizens. The Constitutions of Panama and Mexico prohibit discrimination based on disability. The
Constitutions of El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala mention special education, whereas those
of Mexico and Costa Rica make no reference to the relationship between disability and education.
4. All participating countries have a National Law on Disability that in most cases refer
to equal opportunities. Mexico’s Law is the frst that has been reformulated after ratifying
the Convention; it was approved and published in 2011 with the title of “General Law for
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities”. Laws in the other countries are from the late 1990s or
early 2000s (El Salvador). This explains why the defnition of disability in those laws is limited
to setting forth functional limitations, rather than a current defnition of disability, taking the
person’s interaction with the environment into account.
5. Regarding education, all national laws on disabilities conceive education as a right.
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama and Mexico specify this right at all levels of education or
6. All national laws on disabilities refer one way or another to inclusive education. The laws
for Costa Rica and Mexico speak explicitly of the State’s responsibility to establish special
and inclusive education systems, whereas Guatemala and El Salvador assert that education
must happen as close as possible with the person’s home. El Salvador also defends doing
this within the regular system.
7. Although the Guatemala Law refers to inclusive education, the Law on Attention to
Persons with Disabilities limits the person’s possibility to learn “up to as far as the physical or
mental limitation will allow”. National laws on disability for other countries speak of the State’s
obligation to provide the necessary conditions, support services, curricular adaptations,
human and fnancial resources to make educational services possible for the population
8. All countries but Mexico have developed national policies or plans about inclusive
education. The most updated of these policy provisions policies are in Costa Rica and El
Salvador, which were prepared after having ratifed the Convention and recognized explicitly
the importance of access to information and communication technologies in education for
persons with disabilities.
Normative framework regarding ICTs
1. Regarding laws and policies on information and communication technologies, most countries
have not reinforced their regulatory framework to implement ICTs. Costa Rica, Guatemala and
Panama show efforts through programs, decrees, plans and policies on ICT issues. Mexico is
the only country with a specifc law (Law on Science and Technology, published on 5 June 2002,
last amended on 28 January 2011). Nevertheless, El Salvador has no law at all in this area.
2. Regarding provisions about disabilities, national science and technology laws and plans
in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Panama do not make specifc provisions promoting
or regulating accessibility of information and communication technologies for persons with
disabilities. An analysis of these regulatory frameworks reveals that their fundamental mission
is for States to regulate ICTs and promote and strengthening the use of technologies in different
felds, especially scientifc and technological research.
3. There are provisions regarding access to information and communication for persons with
disabilities. However, there are few and they are scattered within participating countries’ laws
and policies. For example, the Law on Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, in the
case of Costa Rica; the National Policy on Disabilities of El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala,
and the General Law for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of Mexico.
4. The recent Law on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of Mexico is the only one regulating
and providing specifc orientation in terms of ICTs. It also involves other agencies, such as the
National Science and Technology System, to guarantee access to different technological settings
for persons with disabilities.
5. Technology is incorporated into education in the national science and technology plans in
such countries as Guatemala and Panama. Costa Rica promotes their use in national policy for
applications in education and Mexico does so through its recent Law on Science and Technology.
Although these initiatives do not all address the use of ICTs by persons with disabilities, laws
on disability specify the right to integrated education, so the State must guarantee all required
support: human, technical and fnancial resources to satisfy educational needs. However, this
last consideration is not refected in plans and policies on ICTs and education.
Other related laws
1. All these countries, except for Costa Rica, have a Law on Access to Public Information,
with the common denominator of guaranteeing every person’s right to access public
information held by State institutions or by the institutions granted or mandated by
that Law. This Law, however, has no provisions on accessibility for persons with
2. The Law on Intellectual Property / Law on Copyright, present in all countries, does
not allow conversion and distribution of books in accessible formats without permission
from the owners of the copyright. This applies to Costa Rica and Guatemala and,
therefore, any adaptation, transformation or modification must be authorized by the
copyright holder. In some cases, such as Costa Rica, such authorization is granted
for compilations of literary works or scientific journal articles for educational purposes,
providing that they are non-profit and state the sources. In the cases of El Salvador and
Panama, these laws state that works may be conveyed or published by any broadcasting
or other media, without either authorization by the author or any payment, providing this
is for visually disabled and other persons with disabilities,
with the reservation that
they must receive the communication free of charge and no participant may receive any
3. Efforts have been made to establish guidelines for actions to develop and implement ICTs in
all sectors of society, including provisions on disabilities in some specifc cases. However, these
efforts are isolated and not used much by persons with disabilities.
4. In general, we may conclude that access to and use of technology by persons with disabilities
within their right to education is not built into national normative frameworks on technology
and education. Therefore, the normative framework lacks harmonization among laws on ICTs,
education and disabilities.
APPROACH TO USING ICTS IN EDUCATION FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
(ASSESSMENT AND ANALYSIS OF USAGE)
The conclusions in this section are the result of an analysis of the questionnaires, documents
and interviews conducted with the study’s different informants. One limiting factor is the lack of
statistics on the different countries to be able to compare the fndings from these questionnaires.
Another limiting factor is the low number of persons who responded, which prevents the fndings
from being taken as general trends. However, they shed light on the current situation regarding
integration of ICTs into the curriculum, accessibility of information and study materials, services
and platforms available, and use of open resources. In the future, this information will have to be
complemented with statistical studies.
1. The Ministry of Education in each country is responsible for education, operating as the
governing body for the entire educational system. Education for persons with disabilities is
generally the responsibility of special departments for special education under the ministries’
organizational structure. Other signifcant stakeholders are private institutions or civil-society
organizations engaged in integrated education for persons with disabilities.
2. The different options available to persons with disabilities to receive academic education,
according to the analysis of the fndings, include special schools as the most common
option, followed by inclusive schools and distance education schools. Nevertheless,
integrated schools remain an option, and open possibilities for implementing open
universities (see Figure 1).
10 Term used in the Law.
Figure 1: Types of schools attended by persons with disabilities
3.Efforts are being made in all these countries to integrate the use of ICTs into the educational
curriculum, although in some cases such integration is not refected in the countries’
normative documents. These efforts are refected in a series of programs implemented to
incorporate ICTs into education. Therefore, when the questionnaires ask about the degree
to which ICTs have been included, the secondary, university and non-formal education levels
stand out. Primary schools and, to a lesser degree, vocational courses, also appear. One
limiting factor is the lack of statistics to indicate the percentage of integration at these levels
(see Figure 2.)
Figure 2: Levels at which ICTs are incorporated into education
4. In regular education, implementation of programs and teacher training in the use of ICT
all countries have implemented a number of programs and projects in coordination with
the different actors in charge of strengthening of education. These programs range from
the provision of technological infrastructure in schools through implementation of plans for
training in the use of technology in general. Such training not only contemplate teachers but
also students are prepared to use properly and responsibly these technologies. However,
almost no training or updates are made for teachers in the feld of ICT and persons with
5. As for the places where people with disabilities can access information in accessible
formats, stand frst universities, public libraries and primary schools, and to a lesser degree,
but equally important, high schools (see fgure 3).
Figure 3: Places where persons with disabilities can obtain books in accessible formats
6. The technological platforms most used to disseminate information, according to this
analysis of the fndings, are radio and television, followed by Internet, mobile telephones,
community learning centers, satellites and telecenters; to a lesser degree, platforms based
on games and wimax (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: Technological platforms frequently used to disseminate information
7. Services in schools, universities or libraries available for general use, including persons
with disabilities, include computer terminals with scanners and screen readers, CDs / audio
tapes and e-texts and, to a lesser degree, volunteer readers service (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Services available in schools, universities and libraries
8. According to the results, the most used free / open resources are: open-source software,
such as screen readers (at a given level of use), free format documents and open resources
such as the Gutenberg Project and Wikipedia, and open virtual courses have also been
well accepted, as well as open standards such as Daisy for publications and WCAG for
Websites. To a lesser degree, alternative licenses such as Creative Commons are being
used (see Figure 6).
Figure 6: Free / open resources used in each country
9. The formats in greatest demand by persons with visual disability, when requesting
information, according to our informants, are Braille and audio, followed by macrotype,
e-text and to a lesser degree Daisy (see Figure 7).
Figure 7: Formats preferred by persons with visual disability in survey countries
In conclusion, we can affrm that the Ministry of Education is responsible for education in all
these countries, and has general directorates responsible for special education. The options for
academic education for people with disabilities include special and inclusive schools. Some efforts
have been made to integrate ICTs into the educational curriculum, implemented as programs
involving mainly secondary, university and non-formal education. Teacher training in ICTs for
both stakeholders (teachers and students) is seen most in regular education but very little in
education for persons with disabilities. Similarly, although services, platforms, open resources and
technological accessibility are available, the actual context of each country cannot be compared,
due to the lack of statistics in these countries, which was a limiting factor for this study.
This section outlines some good practices encountered in the countries of Central America and
Mexico in using ICTs to educate persons with disabilities. They are described briefy and concisely,
highlighting the essence of each. However, they do not all use the same presentation format,
because the information in each case was obtained in different ways (questionnaire, interview,
email, existing institutional documents, etc.). Each practice contains contact data, so readers can
pursue any given leads.
Good practices presented here are addressed from different angles, fnding their various entry points,
such as: civil society, public and institutional, teacher education, and access to public information.
Training in computing and preparation for the world of work
General Directorate of Training Centers for Work, CECATI – POETA Program – The Trust
Professor Norma González, liaison between DGCFT and the Foundation for the POETA
The General Directorate of Training Centers for Work (DGCFT) of the Secretariat of Public
Education, in alliance with the Trust for the Americas, implements the POETA Program through the
Training Centers for Industrial Work (CECATI). This seeks to contribute to reducing the digital
divide and achieve economic development for the most vulnerable people and communities,
providing training in computing and access to ICTs for persons with disabilities and other minority
groups. This training in technology aims to increase possibilities for participants to access a job
and/or self-employment. The POETA Program has operated in this country since 2005, and the
CECATI have been their main partners since 2008. At present, there are technology centers at
CECATI technology training is supported by the POETA Program through a national coordinator
in the country, who provides ongoing training for these centers, with monitoring, supervision
and mentoring for sustainability. Through local alliances, centers seek to increase their social
impact. Further, the Trust for the Americas contributes software and adapted technology that the
partnership with Microsoft provides for the organization.
The CECATIs also have POETA centers in alliance with the Secretariat of Public Education,
the Monterrey Technological, the University of La Salle, the National Pedagogical University,
the Nuevo León DIF, the Mexican Institute of Youth, the Institute of Veracruz Youth, and the
Secretariats of Youth in Colima, Michoacán and Yucatán.
Through POETA centers, over 16,000 persons have been trained in computing, approximately
40% of them with disabilities, and they have provided access to ICTs for over 137,000 users
nationwide. The government of Mexico considers the POETA Program as one of its public
policies designed to provide development opportunities for persons with disabilities and other
vulnerable groups. It applies resources, operated by a Secretariat of State, the Secretariat of
To generate greater social impact, in 2009 the Chamber of Deputies made the budget allocation to
set up 45 POETA centers in the country’s CECATIs. The budget included equipment procurement,
adaptations for accessibility, training for instructors, adapting classrooms, etc. The annual cost
to set up, train, operate and maintain a POETA center is approximately US$100,000 per center.
An important aspect contributing to the centers’ sustainability is the sum of efforts by public,
private and societal institutions and the great commitment of local partners operating them, and
their highly sensitized personnel. Local centers become signifcant factors in service to persons
The main methodology used by the POETA centers is the Unlimited Potential Curriculum by
Microsoft. They also give a Course in Preparation for the World of Work, where one can study
languages, pastry-making, foods and beverage preparation, electricity, tourism, electronics,
mechatronics, communication, and others. Once the courses are completed, participants are
given an offcial certifcate from the Secretariat of Public Education.
Center installation began by locating adequate facilities. They use adapted technologies (mouse,
keyboards, software, etc.). Similarly, to guarantee access to centers, ramps are installed, and
bathrooms are modifed. Additionally, personnel is trained to provide correct, warm service.
The services and training are free of charge to users. However, some centers collect symbolic
fees to cover such expenses as student insurance and certifcate issue, but they average no more
than US$10. Services are free of charge because local partners cover expenses to operate and
maintain these centers, to pay instructors or coordinate volunteers for this purpose.
The future perspective is to impact more persons and guarantee the centers’ sustainability, to
be able to expand their range of services, including orientation by contract with companies and
institutions, professional training for instructors with certifcation and replicating the Program
through investment by institutions and local governments.
Use of ICTs in educating persons with visual disability in Mexico
The institution provides non-formal education and occupational training, training for educators and
ongoing education for persons with disabilities and care for boys and girls from birth to age 17.
They promote innovative use of ICTs to educate persons with disabilities through freeware and
open-source software (FOSS). Their team of eight includes three teachers with disabilities.
The Center’s annual budget is about US$160,000 and funding comes from private donors,
foundations and second-tier institutions, events organized by the government agency (Patronato),
and invitations by the federal and local government through concrete projects.
The actions undertaken to use ICTs in learning by persons with disabilities include:
• Computing classes for children with visual disability to train them to use technological tools
facilitating their inclusion in schooling.
ICTs, distance education, blind, weak vision, education, on line training, training,
• Computing courses at basic, intermediate and advanced levels, targeting youth and adults
with visual disability. Courses include: Word, Excel, Power Point, designing Websites, and
programming with PHP.
• Distance education platform for youth and adults requiring vocational training in software
use, with the advantages provided by the distance instruction modality.
The Sub-program of Research and Development prepares courses in audio format. The aim is
to generate educational materials that are accessible to persons with visual disability. The service
produces the material requested by the person responsible for the area of technology for the
distance education platform of Ilumina, Ceguera and Baja Vision, and other institutions.
The software development service contributes to developing persons by preparing software to
facilitate learning of school subjects and special abilities by persons with visual disability. Software
has been produced for primary-school students in basic school subjects.
The Ilumina Podcast Service provides information for persons with visual disability regarding
technology and services offered by different institutions, through an accessible communications
medium, available 24 hours a day.
Cost and accessibility: Courses average 40 to 45 hours, and cost US$30, which can be paid
over 3 months. The emphasis is on distance education, which signifcantly reduces personnel
costs and makes the arrangement replicable and useful for all Spanish-speaking students with
visual disability. Further, to keep them available, services have been provided for companies that
provide funding and stability. The operation depends on second-tier donors and sponsors.
Impact: In 2011, they have served a total of 153 persons, 74% of them women (113), 15
children ages 3 to 12 and 9 children and youth ages 12 to 17. Most have been served in the
Success factors: The “Ilumina” technological platform for Distance Education (EDI) designs
courses with a very clear methodology, putting support materials into formats that are accessible
to users. It has been fundamental for success to determine the main thrusts of the institution’s
efforts and the outcomes sought, in order not to scatter its available human, material and
Vision and perspective: Ilumina, Ceguera and Baja Vision identifes itself as an organization
with innovative strategies to promote educational, social and workplace inclusion of persons
with visual disability, using ICTs. The platform has tools supporting regular school teachers to
learn how to teach children with visual problems. This gives youth and adults with blindness
and low vision the opportunity to receive distance vocational training with courses and
documented, systematized proposals. The platform is used by centers in different countries
to give workshops and distance courses to the public without any need to have all the
technological infrastructure that these tools require.
Use of ICTs with deaf students and those with multiple challenges in Costa Rica
This practice consists of a laboratory serving deaf students and with multiple challenges, from early
stimulation through sixth grade in primary. Their work plan is to implement two courses, comprising:
• Individual support for students who are deaf-blind or have multiple challenges.
• Course for youth who are former students of the institution. The pedagogical design
consists of contents the professor applies who is in charge of the group. These contents take
into account the various areas of the curriculum and incorporate technological tools to attain
the objectives proposed for each course. The proposed projects grant priority to developing
Spanish as a second language.
After each course an assesment of the knowledge acquired by the students is conducted.
For more information, a video on the experience is at the following Website:
Fernando Centeno Güell, National Special Education Center, Department of Hearing and
Equal opportunities for students with disabilities in Costa Rica
CENAREC belongs to the Ministry of Public Education and its main purpose is to satisfy the
requirements of students with disabilities, teachers and other professionals, parents, researchers
and community members related to this population, to achieve better educational support for
these students, enhancing information, advisory assistance by technical aids, training, research
and other related actions.
The target population of CENAREC is 60,000 teachers, not counting parents and community
members. The approximate number of direct benefciaries is 100,000 persons and indirect
benefciaries 200,000 or more, because the impact of publications or Website use is not measurable.
CENAREC’s budget averages US$1,580,400 a year for current expenses and is funded by
administered by the World of Opportunities Foundation (FMO). A fund of about
US$590,000 is contributed by MEP. This covers the salaries of 26 technical staff a year. The
services of CENAREC are totally free of charge to users.
Advisory assistance on technical aids has the purpose of recommending the use of these products
to support the student population with educational needs associated with a condition of disability,
to favor the educational process.
In CENAREC, ICTs are viewed as a support product favoring the development of capacities, and
for students with disabilities they become a fundamental aspect to gaining access to education.
This service has two professionals on staff: an occupational therapist and a special education
11 Law Nº 7972 of 22 December 1999, which levies taxes on cigarettes and liquors for the Social
Protection Plan. Article 15(h) stipulates that “two and one-half percent (2.5%) of resources will be
allocated to the World of Opportunities Foundation to fund the project to create, construct and maintain
a resource center to meet the needs of the disabled population”.
teacher, who travel to primary and secondary schools to evaluate students. By using the digital
they determine, along with the student and his or her family, the technical assistance
required. Then the product is purchased and delivered.
Training professionals in ICTs and special educational needs in Costa Rica
The course on “ICTs and special educational needs” is offered at the undergraduate level in
the Educational Computing Program at the State Distance University of Costa Rica. Since 2009,
an average of 40 students have acquired theoretical and practical knowledge about the use and
adaptation of information and communication technologies to students’ special educational needs,
regardless of their physical, mental, cognitive or sensorial conditions, in addition to training in
preparing, implementing and using specifc applications with ICTs in a simple, practical, inclusive
manner. This is currently the only course covering this subject area in Costa Rican universities.
The course is bimodal, with both on-site sessions and work on-line. It is presented in 10 sessions,
each of which is a module. The cost is the same for all subjects at the undergraduate level,
Electronic and audiovisual material is made available to the student. There are also laboratory
practice sessions and a fnal project including feld work. The course is supported by the telematic
tool that organizes the material, schedule, discussion forum, and links to sites to access educational
software and complementary readings. Through interaction in discussion fora, blogs, and a
diary, among others, students and the tutor can analyze topics of interest about ICTs and special
The course has two on-site sessions, held in a computing laboratory. Each session will reinforce
management of the different software programs supporting work with students with special
Impact: A total of 106 students have received the course. It began in 2009 with 25 students, and
in 2010 and 2011 there have been 41 and 40, respectively. The lessons learned involve both the
use of technological tools and the attitude toward the issues and interest in continuing to develop
in this feld.
E-accessibility of government in El Salvador
The Directorate of Technological Innovation and Computing of the Presidency of El Salvador is
developing a major project of Standardizing and Modernizing Governmental Websites, including
standards of accessibility.
Regarding the use of augmentative media or mechanisms, and accessible formats, the offcial Websites
for public offces are being designed to meet 100% of norms and standards regarding the technical
part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
There are 33 government employees responsible for institutional communications, ministries and
other public entities that have been trained in Web accessibility and have included, in at least
45 governmental sites, 13 standards of accessibility. It was decided to standardize a total of 84
institutions, i.e., approximately 90% of government institutions.
At this time, there is no law on development of or access to information and communication
technology as such. This project on standardization and modernization happened thanks to
funding by the Spanish International Cooperation Agency (through its Coordinated Co-funding
Fund), under the Directorate of Technological Innovation and Computing of the Presidency of El
Salvador (ITIGES), under supervision by the technical secretariat of the Presidency. The project
has the backing of policy by the Government’s Chief of Cabinet.
This called together different institutions in the government, which were given the necessary inputs
so each could achieve standardization under the Presidency’s advisory assistance and training.
All CMS and methodology inputs are based on open-code Web templates.
CONCLUSIONS ON GOOD PRACTICES
In general, during the study, few experiences were yet found in using technology to educate
persons with disabilities. Most good practices were compiled from Costa Rica and to a lesser
scale from Panama, Mexico and El Salvador. Nothing was included from Guatemala because of
low participation and communication by the stakeholders contacted.
The characteristics of practices differ greatly, and it was diffcult to fnd a practice that could be
equally accessible, inclusive or user-friendly for all types of defciencies. Many of the experiences
compiled concentrate on a single type of disability and some remain at the level of basic training
in computing, without much application in educational practice. Most take place only in cities
or capital cities, showing the emphasis on the urban sector and lack of access in rural areas.
Except for Costa Rica, which has visibly, concretely made progress in establishing governmental
mechanisms to ensure equal opportunities in education, using ICTs as part of technical aids
to which each person is entitled, and Panama, which has developed advanced practices in
technology, we observed the tendency to fnd more practices in using ICTs in education in private
sectors or operated by NGOs, than in governmental agencies.
MOST IMPORTANT CHALLENGES IN THE CENTRAL AMERICAN REGION AND MEXICO
An analysis of the questionnaires, interviews and other sources shows that the challenges most
identifed in implementing ICTs to educate persons with disabilities are in the area of the normative
framework, lack of trained teachers, prohibitive costs and inadequate infrastructure.
In addition to these issues, a fundamental factor is still the culture of the general public and
authorities regarding disability. The medical rehabilitation approach prevails and there is lack of
knowledge about disability. Despite the ratifcation of the Convention, and initiatives to change
policies (in some countries further advanced than in others), authorities do not recognize full
inclusion of persons with disabilities. Therefore, no inclusive policies are designed, nor suffcient
resources allocated. The fact that disability is not a priority for most countries and is not yet
mainstreamed in public policies means that funding is insuffcient for teacher training and to set
up physical infrastructure and accessible technology. Efforts are isolated, and often pursued more
by civil-society organizations than by the government.
Low penetration by Internet, lack of exposure to advanced technology or the contents or
technologies available in local languages would seem to be less important as barriers, according
to study informants.
These conclusions, derived from all the above, attempt to present an overview of the aspects
Regarding legislation, much remains to be done for educational norms in the region to adopt
provisions promoting educational inclusion according to the commitments acquired by ratifying the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
General education laws clearly tend to take persons with disabilities into account through
special education (with the exception of Panama). The same trend can be observed in national
Constitutions. This improves in national laws on disability, which are more specifc and favor
inclusive education or include both modalities.
In general, although there is no specifc regulatory framework in each country to address the
issue of ICTs holistically, or including provisions about disability, isolated efforts have attempted to
establish a frame of reference for actions to develop and implement ICTs in all sectors of society.
However, issues of accessibility, the right to education and the use of technology by persons with
disabilities are not well integrated.
An analysis of the data provided by informants highlights legislative variety in the levels of demands
for harmonization of laws on the rights of persons with disability and those regulating education,
information and communication technologies, access to information, copyright and discrimination.
The section on using ICTs in education for persons with disabilities includes statements on the
questionnaires flled in by each stakeholders involved in the study. Unfortunately, these results
cannot be located in the actual context of each country, or be taken as a general trend in the
region, since there are no statistics for comparison with each other. There is a lack of reports or
documentation on the reality of technology use in general, including the population with disabilities.
Priorities to enhance use of ICTs by persons with disabilities, and in education specifcally, should be:
1. Achieve a change in attitudes toward a rights perspective
This holds for decision-makers, for professionals working with persons with disabilities and with
education, and for the public at large. Countries’ vision of ICTs must expand beyond computing
labs, to see them as tools providing technical support and assistance, enhancing the capacities
of persons with disabilities and enabling them to access their rights in different ways. In the
case of the right to education, ICTs enable students to access and remain successfully in the
2. Improve the normative framework regarding ICTs and persons with disabilities
In some cases there are no norms, and in others they are insuffcient, vague or disjointed. With
the speed of technological innovation, a specifc normative framework defning platforms or
services is not likely to be very relevant.
On the contrary, if the normative framework is positioned from the standpoint that access to
technology for persons with disabilities is a right and enables them to access other rights such
as technical assistance, it will be more sustainable. For example, in Costa Rica the existence
of a normative framework has not been a sine qua non to develop mechanisms for access
to technology. They have no specifc law or detailed provisions about use of ICTs by persons
with disabilities, but authorities have used the existing normative framework as a general
guideline, creating mechanisms and funding that have put Costa Rica well ahead of other
countries in the region.
Similarly, effective public policies to help create plans and programs to promote the use of ICTs
by persons with disabilities, with regulations and norms for access to technology, and making
adapted technology more accessible to users, is one of the study’s recommendations.
Persons with disabilities must be involved in legislative harmonization and public policy-
making. Society’s pressure can be signifcant, for instance to release applications or software
for non-commercial use.
3. Greater budget allocations to developing access to ICTs for persons with disabilities
Funding enables progress in procuring basic and adapted hardware, installing accessible
infrastructure, teacher training, etc. The budget allocation would be possible if there were
clear policies in this regard.
4. Training for teachers and professionals to use ICTs as tools to help students
Although regular teacher training in many countries already includes the use of technology,
this topic is not covered systematically in training or refreshing capacities of special and
inclusive education teachers. It is also important to work with the attitude of teachers and the
community, raising their consciousness of the right of persons with disabilities to use ICTs.
5. Create accessible infrastructure and provide equipment
Physical accessibility of computing centers, schools and universities remains to be addressed
on the agenda of priorities. It is understandable that, without physical access, there is no
access to technology. Physical accessibility must be mainstreamed through all public and
6. Including ICTs in teacher education and the curriculum of basic education
Although some countries of the region integrate ICTs as part of the curriculum for teacher
training and for students, by implementing programs to use ICTs, our informants found no
evidence of this in education for persons with disabilities. Therefore, it is recommended
to review the curricula of teacher training for regular and special education, and for basic
education, to integrate concrete actions into that training. Of course, this recommendation
includes the idea that regular school teachers will increasingly be called upon to teach
students with disabilities, so mainstreaming them in regular classrooms must be reinforced
in the future studies of their teachers.
7. Generate records and statistics on access to and use of ICTs by persons with
In countries with greater initiatives to implement ICTs with persons with disabilities, institutional
stakeholders agreed that efforts were isolated and unrecorded, so no evidence or statistics
can be generated. It would be interesting to be able to suggest that disability issues be
integrated into records and statistics systems on ICTs in general and for institutions to begin
recording and exchanging information to create evidence of the practices being created.
Similarly, it is clearly necessary to further disseminate the practices being generated in
individual countries and the region in the use of ICTs for education of persons with disabilities.
Since the trend is for most practices to develop within civil-society organizations, it might be
useful to encourage mechanisms to gather good practices and develop models that each
country can adapt and apply in their public institutions.
COUNTRIES OF THE CARIBBEAN REGION AND USE OF ICTs
Information and communication technologies have become a determining factor in
educational development and practice worldwide and in this region. Concern with innovating
and offering suitable responses to the constant technological changes of all sorts is all of
society’s responsibility, and integrating persons with disabilities into this process equitably
and realistically, so they are not excluded from education and the benefts offered by ICTs, is
the responsibility of States and societies.
Therefore, UNESCO-Quito and the Trust for the Americas have supported this research, including
the Caribbean region, as a contribution to an overview of the reality of the countries studied, to
be able to replicate actions and provide specifc recommendations to achieve this overall goal of
integrating persons with disabilities by using ICTs.
Persons with disabilities in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia and
Saint Vincent all confront, overall, huge challenges to be incorporated socially. Such initiatives as
implementing norms to ensure them access to ICTs can enable them to genuinely develop their
potential equally and increase their development in all senses.
Taking into account that the Caribbean region includes some of the poorest countries,
to the statistical “ECLAC 2010 for Latin America and the Caribbean” report, this study’s data
helped identify the numerous factors involved and the obstacles to be overcome so that many of
these countries can develop access for persons with disabilities to inclusive education and the
use of ICTs.
ANALYSIS OF THE NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK/DISABILITY, EDUCATION, ICTs
According to reliable data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American
Health Organization (PAHO), the world has almost 600 million persons with disabilities. 16 million
of them belong to Latin America and the Caribbean and only 3% of them receive any sort of
governmental assistance of any kind (education, health, food).
In Latin America and the Caribbean, according to World Bank data, only 20%-30% of girls and
boys with disabilities attend school. On the basis of available data, it may be concluded that girls
and boys with disabilities are often excluded from educational systems in most countries of the
region. Hence the importance of identifying which States in the Caribbean included in the study
have adopted norms, wholly or partially, regarding education, ICTs and persons with disabilities.
According to the World Bank, disability prevalence rates vary widely because different defnitions
of disability are used, and methodologies for measurement are different and vary in quality.
13 This scale includes persons in extreme poverty and the percentage whose income is lower than the cost
of a basic food basket, according to the ECLAC report in the Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the
14 How Many Persons with Disabilities are there in the World according to the World Bank [English]:
Normative frameworks and disability in the Caribbean region
The Republic of Cuba, with a current population of approximately 11,382,820 inhabitants, is
unique in the region because of its socialist political system, originated in an armed insurrection
on 1 January 1959, and has normative frameworks to ensure application of laws to beneft the
people nationwide. This includes equitable access to various forms of social development for the
public at large, with open access to knowledge, health care, employment, recreation, culture,
and a feeling of collective dignity and solidarity. All these actions include the sector of persons
with disabilities. The country has a broad, participatory inter-institutional system to guarantee
reception, processing and response to complaints about any violation of citizen rights and,
since 1959, has been adopting concrete measures to serve persons with disabilities. In 1995,
Cuba established a National Action Plan to Serve Persons with Disabilities, guaranteeing closer
coordination regarding employment, accessibility, health, education, training and enjoyment of
information and communication technologies.
Regarding laws and norms, the Dominican Republic has a newly amended Constitution,
recognizing and consecrating each citizen’s fundamental rights and duties. It was enacted on
26 January 2010 in Offcial Gazette No. 10561. This new Constitution uses a more polished
legislative technique than its prior versions. For the frst time, the Constitution of the Republic
includes the issue of disability in several of its articles. Specifcally targeting this sector is Article
No. 58. Protection for persons with disabilities.
Articles 39. Right to equality and 60.
Right to Social Security mention their rights and non-discrimination for disabilities. Article 147.
Purpose of public services, sub-section 2, establishes that they must satisfy the principles of
universality and accessibility. In the 90s, Law 21-91 created the National Council for Prevention,
Rehabilitation and Education of Persons with Handicaps (CONAPREM). Law 42-2000 is
currently being amended to adjust to the requirements of persons with disabilities.
In Jamaica, the entity responsible for public policies regarding persons with disabilities is the
Ministry of Labor and Social Security, through the Council for Persons with Disabilities,
with the mission of facilitating their educational, social and economic integration nationwide,
in a participatory environment of collaboration, through advisory support, training, public
education and provision of other relevant services. In 1982, a population policy was enacted
to meet human needs and improve quality of life in the areas of education, housing, health
and nutrition, etc. Some aspects of the policy are materialized in a population-sensitive health
policy instrument that could help persons make decisions based on fecundity issues, without
waiving rights and liberties. The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities was approved
in 2000. The government is working at present on a draft Law entitled “National Law on
Disability”, which is expected to be enacted during the 2010/2011 Legislative Year.
In Saint Kitts, a program was established for early detection, intervention and stimulation for
persons with disabilities. The 1996-2000 Census recorded a handicapped population of 68
children and young adults.
Normative frameworks and education
In Cuba the different ministries are obliged to provide services for all persons with disabilities, in
health, education, sports and recreation, and in employment and Social Security, among others. Their
budgets include service through different programs for persons with disabilities. The Government also
guarantees a subsidy for organizations of these persons and the amount depends on the activities
plans that these associations submit annually.
Over 50,000 persons currently belong to the Associations of Physically and Motor-Limited, Blind, Deaf
and Hard of Hearing Persons (ACLIFIM, ANSI and ANSOC), non-governmental organizations that are
increasingly aware of their societal role, and the increasingly creative and dynamic work that these
times require, above all at their grassroots.
The Ministry of Education of Cuba is responsible for issuing nationwide educational standards.
Education is mandatory and free of charge. Cuba has no Law of Education as such, but two chapters
(V and VI) in its Constitution. Education is totally governmental, organized by coordinated subsystems.
This system is considered one of Cuba’s greatest achievements. Integration involves three aspects: the
general polytechnic school of education for work, traveling teachers, and the “Solidarity with Panama”
school for physical-motor handicapped children, located in Boyeros, outside Havana.
There are at present approximately 4,249 special education centers, including 21 homes
for children requiring protection. The specialist staff working in these institutions totals 14,400
teachers, including speech therapists and pedagogical aides, responsible for 55,000 students with
sensory, intellectual, physical-motor defciencies and behavioral disturbances.
In early 2001, schools were inaugurated in Havana and Santiago de Cuba for autistic children. Of
the total of 180 nationwide, 166 are for minors (under age 18) and 14 for those 19 and older. Cuba
also has over 260 traveling teachers who work with 509 quadriplegic children, visiting their homes
or hospitals for the corresponding education.
2001 was the 40th anniversary of the creation of special education on the Island. Cuba is one of
the few countries in Latin America that, despite its economic crisis and blockade, has increased
its number of special schools (almost 50 more) and increased capacities for children with diverse
types of diffculties to get their schooling.
Education in the Dominican Republic is governed by the Ministry of Education, which is
responsible for regulating the Dominican educational system pursuant to General Law on
Education No. 66-97, guaranteeing the right for all Dominicans to quality education, by
educating free, critical, creative men and women. It also grants priority to improving educational
quality and equity as instruments to build a fairer, more integrated national society.
The Dominican Republic’s educational system has high rates of school enrollment for girl
and boy children and youth, but also has problems to be addressed regarding repetition
of grades and drop-out rates. Therefore, more updated information is required, to directly
monitor timely information about schooling, in order to adjust policies and projects to enhance
Despite great interest, there is a lack of totally accessible schools. Not having a viable transport
system makes school attendance more diffcult for children and youth with disabilities.
The 1996-2000 Census recorded a handicapped population of 68 children and young adults. The
Society for Blind and Visually Challenged Persons has 30 members.
Normative frameworks and ICTs
Cuba has attempted to begin applying strategies to turn information and communication
technologies into instruments at the service of socio-cultural transformations. Every school in
the country, including rural schools, uses audiovisual media and computing for the teaching
and learning process. A total of 30,000 students are studying programming and other mid-
level computing specialties. Internet and new information and communication technologies
are used creatively to enhance the social beneft.
Establishing the Ministry of Computing and Communications, more than a grouping of contents
and institutions, means the creation of a new, essential agency with varied functions and aims,
including regulation and support for developing computing, telecommunications, broadcasting,
use of the broadcasting spectrum, networks to exchange information, value added services
and postal services.
“One of the most important missions of the new Ministry is promoting
the computerization of Cuban society, encouraging access to info-communicational networks
on a global scale”.
The Dominican Republic has had a unique evolution regarding telecommunications. Historically,
telecommunications in the RD have been developed by private capital from the outset, unlike most
countries, where this was originally offered by the State as a public service.
There are no laws or governmental policies on ICTs specifcally for the sector of persons
with disabilities in this country. However, the National Council on Disabilities (CONADIS)
has signed inter-institutional collaboration agreements with the Technological Institute of
the Americas (ITLAS) and the Institute of Technical and Vocational Training (INFOTEP) as
a way of progressively ensuring accessibility to information for all persons with disabilities.
Technological centers have also been set up in institutions in different sectors (deaf, blind
and physical disabilities) that are now experiencing technological developments to facilitate
communication. These include the Dominican Foundation of the Blind (FUDCI), which has a
Braille print shop producing basic education textbooks approved by the Secretariat of State
of Education. Similarly, literary works and legislative texts of great importance have been
translated for persons with disabilities, such as Law 87-01, Law 43-2000 on Disabilities and
the Law on HIV-AIDS before it was amended this year. FUDCI is also developing the “Spoken
Book” initiative, tape recording different types of educational and general-use publications.
The institution also has a computing laboratory adapted for persons with visual disability, using
the Jaws system.
17 Speech by Carlos Lage in Computing 2000.
18 Ministry of Computing and Communications. www.cubasi.cu
The Institute to Assist Deaf People has programmable analog and digital headphones, with
an FM system and individual amplifcation equipment, offering the advantage of cancelling
background noise and reverberation, and maintaining suffcient amplifcation to help each
person listen no matter how far they are from the sound source.
This Institute will also carry out the ALFA-TEC (Technological Literacy) project to extend
appropriate use of information technologies to a greater number of deaf users in the National
District and the Province of Santo Domingo.
Other institutions, such as the National Organization of the Blind and the Olga Estrella National
Center of Educational Resources for Visual Disability, have technologies adapted particularly
to types of visual disability.
Further, non-governmental institutions working with persons with auditory disability will
pursue a project sponsored by Popularization of Communication, to contribute to creating a
more socially balanced society with better opportunities to raise productivity, effciency and
development of persons with disabilities and their environment.
The Circle of Women with Disabilities (CIMUDIS) pursues projects to reduce illiteracy in
women with disabilities of all ages, while integrating them into basic computing classes.
Finally, the National Commission for the Information and Knowledge Society (CNSIC), which
works for social inclusion, is taking actions to exchange technology to assist persons with
disability, including, but not limited to an ocular mouse for persons with physical-motor
disabilities and software to interpret sign language into text and voice, thereby placing ICTs at
the service of persons with auditory disability and speech diffculties.
From 1930 through 1990 the Dominican Telephone Company, Inc. (CODETEL) was the only
company offering telephone services in the country. In 1990 a second company joined the
market, TRICOM. At the time, Telecommunications Law No. 118, of 1966, was in effect, but did
not provide for competition, so it was obsolete and unsuitable to deal with market situations
in the sector.
Subsequently, a project sponsored by the World Bank and the International Telecommunications
Union led to the 27 May 1998 enactment of General Telecommunications Law No. 153-98, which
is the basic regulatory framework for the telecommunications sector in the Dominican Republic.
The Prime Minister of Jamaica has drafted a policy on information and communication
technologies, submitting a draft proposal to the cabinet. The policy will include a
recommendation to establish a single regulatory body for the converging ICT sector, which will
have the authority to address specifc topics. The aim of this draft policy is to create a modern
legal and administrative framework with suffciently broad planning to enable the unfolding
of high-capacity, affordable, accessible networks. It will also aim to increase trained human
capital to support ICT growth and enable access to ICTs for persons with disabilities.
Jamaica has a Copyright Law, enacted on 1 September 1993. It establishes regulations
regarding intellectual property. Jamaica also has a Law on Access to Public Information,
established to direct and orient the application and administration of the Law on Access to
Information of 2002, and is under the Offce of the Prime Minister.
General normative frameworks
In the Caribbean region, norms on disabilities are still weak, except for examples from Cuba
regarding educational policy and integration into employment for persons with disabilities,
which has three variants: the company, work at home, and special workshops. There are
143 sheltered workshops, with about 3000 employees. There is no similar case in the other
Although there is mention of initiatives regarding emerging activity to encourage micro-
enterprises, the other countries have no policies for labor quotas by law, but rather operate as
isolated programs or projects, generally by NGOs.
In Cuba, about 17,800 persons with disabilities are incorporated into socially useful lives, at
normal jobs, in special workshops or working from home. In 2001 some 1,500 got new jobs
and 36,000 beneftted from the social care program, mainly with monetary and other services.
A socio-labor service for this segment is called the Program of Employment for Persons
with Disabilities, to promote policies to actively involve people with disabilities in economic
and social development in their localities. It also works with those persons with limitations
who are looking for jobs, students at special schools and those who are working at special
workshops but wish to engage in some ordinary activity.
Laws on Copyright and Related Rights are in effect in the different countries studied. In each
they are responsible for safeguarding such rights.
The General Law on Free Access to Information is also established, granting the right to
access governmental and public administration information, and to be informed periodically,
as required, about the activities of entities and persons performing public functions.
Information on the normative framework of the countries in the Caribbean region is primarily based
on an analysis of the questionnaires, interviews and information gathered in each, and reveals
marked differences among them, of a political and cultural nature and of course in language, etc.
Cuba, despite its economic crisis, has a whole platform to address these issues from the different
angles of disability (education, health, workplace integration). We can also see that the Dominican
Republic and Jamaica have some norms and actions, but there is an absence of public policies in
the other countries of the region. Although they take partial actions and initiatives, they have not
established public policies regarding persons with disabilities, as established in the Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities about employment and the use of ICTs.
These marked differences between countries in a single region make a comparative analysis or
overall fndings more diffcult and also refect major gaps regarding disabilities.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Cuba signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
on 26 April 2007. Subsequently, it ratifed the Convention on 6 September of that same year.
On the 6th of September, Cuba deposited the ratifcation instrument with the United Nations
Secretary-General. The Convention went into effect for Cuba on 3 May 2008, has the same
rank as a law, and is established in the national Constitution. Cuba has not signed or ratifed
the Optional Protocol.
Likewise, the Dominican Republic signed it on 30 March 2007. The Optional Protocol was
signed together with the Convention and ratifed on 17 November 2008.
Currently, with the support of the Regional Network of Persons with Disabilities and Their
Families (RIADIS), the Association of Physical-Motor Handicapped Persons (ASODIFIMO)
and other entities belonging to RIADIS, the Circle of Women with Disabilities (CIMUDIS), the
Dominican Foundation of Blind Persons (FUDCI) and the National Handicapped Federation
(FENADID), they are promoting the Convention through lectures and courses, while forming
a multi-sectoral network to promote actions in favor of this sector.
Jamaica was one of the frst countries in the Caribbean to sign and ratify the Convention
on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The number of signatures and ratifcations at
the ceremony for the Convention and Protocol totaled 127, the highest number ever at a
ceremony of opening for signature.
Jamaica has the Law of Special Education for Persons with Special Capacities and has
established the “Education and Economic Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities”
Program, for inclusion of persons with disabilities and HIV-AIDS in public education. The
Program has an associated component for income generation
to help persons with disabilities
access business skills and small-scale subsidies to be able to open and administer their own
businesses, and thereby reduce their vulnerability.
The island nations of Saint Kitts, Saint Martin and Saint Vincent have not yet signed the Convention.
In the area of education, the adult literacy rate was 75.4% in 1994 and primary and secondary
school enrollment was almost 100% in 1995. Functional illiteracy among people who fnish primary
school is relatively high, despite the full school enrollment. Saint Kitts was the frst English colony
in the Caribbean and served as the basis for future colonization of the region.
Illiteracy on these islands is high. Nearly 98% of primary school students do not continue on
to secondary school. In 1999-2000, 721 boys and 823 girls enrolled for preschool. Tertiary
education offers academic, vocational and professional training; the local university enrollment
totals 422 students. The Ministry of Gender Affairs promotes ongoing education and training
for women who have left formal schooling due to pregnancy.
There is a special education unit in Saint Kitts and another similar one in Nevis offering
education to 112 students ages 4 to 20. The Ministry of Education employs some of the persons
with the most serious disabilities. At age 15 begins training for employment for persons with
slight disability, who will later join the work force.
Current authorities and governments are facilitating, by legislation, studies abroad so that
youth and professionals can return and put ICT developments into practice.
There is no
specifc policy on ICTs and persons with disabilities.
Saint Lucia is a small independent State located north of Saint Vincent and south of the island
of Martinica. It belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations. Its citizens can all vote, but only
those born there prior to independence are eligible for election to Parliament.
The island is inhabited by over 162,000 persons, most Afro-descendants (60%), with a mixed-
blood minority (35.5%); the rest are from India (3.7%) and only 0.8% are white. 70.2% of the
population is Catholic, 19.4% are Protestant, and other religions account for the remaining
1.4%. There is a small number of inhabitants known as Kalinagos who mainly live in the
Choiseul region and in some localities along the western coast. There is also a small minority
of Syrians and Lebanese. The offcial language is English but they also speak Kweyol and
some local languages derived largely from French, such as Creole. The average age is 24
and the life expectancy is 73.
Saint Lucia has not signed the Convention or the Optional Protocol. They have no specifc
policies regarding ICTs or persons with disabilities. Almost 33% of the entire population cannot
read or write.
Saint Vincent is a country located north of Venezuela and from the island of Grenada, in the
Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. Its territory of 389 km² comprises the main island of
Saint Vincent and two thirds of the Northern Grenadines. The country has a British colonial
history and now belongs to the Commonwealth and CARICOM.
Only 50% of the countries studied have signed and ratifed the Convention. Three of the small
English-speaking islands have an incipient approach and a there are a few laws and norms
regarding disabilities in many of them.
So, we can graphically display the overall behavior of the countries studied regarding signing
of the Convention and its optional protocol:
23 ECLAC. Globalization and Development. Chile.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was approved by the United Nations General
Assembly on 13 December 2006. The Convention and its Optional Protocol went into effect on 3 May 2008
The information gathered in responses to questionnaires regarding the use of technologies in
educational and other contexts has shed some light on the actions that some countries of the
region have put into practice. This percentage is 50% affrmative, 12.5% negative and 37.5%
unknown; this is by no means defnitive, because not all questionnaires were returned, specifcally
from the English-speaking countries of the Lesser Antilles. This can be complemented in a fnal
report when more information has been received, enabling a more thorough comparative analysis.
PRESENTATION ON GOOD PRACTICES
The good practices found by analyzing the questionnaires include:
1. Those on public policies, norms and laws established in Cuba, in general through their
socialistic policy actions regarding the educational area of persons with disabilities.
2. In the Dominican Republic we fnd noteworthy actions by three governmental entities and
2.1. The Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (INDOTEL), by setting up multiple
technological centers in institutions for persons with disabilities, to give them access to
and use of computers, installing software and screen readers, and other devices for
blind persons, with physical disability enabling reduced mobility or intellectual defcit,
so that with specialist instructors they can, within their particular characteristics, learn
basics and/or train as “computing technicians”.
2.2. The Technological Institute of the Americas (ITLAS) offers technical professional
training and structuring their environment gradually to make it more accessible for youth with
disabilities who want to get vocational training. It also has a scholarship program offering
lodging and transport support for trainees.
2.3. The Offce of the First Lady, with the establishment of Community Technological Centers
that are accessible and adapted in different neighborhoods of the metropolitan zone and in
the country’s most marginalized rural zones.
2.4. The Dominican Foundation of the Blind (FUDCI) is using ICTs to offer courses to blind
youth, giving classes on the use of software and programs and screen readers, in addition
to promoting reading in Braille format. The entity has a Braille print shop to publish school
textbooks and materials such as the Convention, laws, etc.
3. In Jamaica it is important to highlight the distribution of equipment (laptops) in schools,
which is not directly aimed at young people and children with disabilities but whose actions
are included as a general rule.
• Unresponsiveness of governmental and diplomatic informants (when we came for the
interview, their assistant gave us the answers).
• Lack of interaction with some of the countries queried, despite constant attempts to
• Most of the people queried have little knowledge of the subject.
• The region’s heavy rainfall season caused some interviews and/or meetings to be postponed.
• Another climatic factor (hurricanes Emily and Irene) interrupted Internet connection for
several days, generating delays.
• In some cases, the language barrier made effective communication more diffcult.
This study of several countries in the Caribbean region has revealed the absence of specifc
policies on ICTs and persons with disabilities, as in the other Latin American countries.
Although several of the Caribbean countries are taking actions and initiatives to promote and
provide adapted technology at accessible centers, these actions are part of projects and/or
programs not based on any legislative platform or governmental public policies.
We could present, as an exception, the measures adopted by Cuba, where an integrated, inclusive
educational system has been established for persons with disabilities, but it does not incorporate
the technological aspect; therefore, ICTs are not used because of the overall constraints in Cuba
on ICT use.
Another aspect to take into consideration is the unresponsiveness of governmental offcials and
diplomats, a clear indicator of unfamiliarity with these issues for the persons interviewed or who
were given questionnaires.
The absence of laws or norms regarding persons with disabilities, and decision-makers unaware
of relevant conventions and regulations, pose a genuine barrier to developing this population
group, or satisfying their fundamental needs, such as education, health care, transportation, work,
and so on. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must be promoted and
disseminated at all levels, so that implementing and complying with its purposes, principles and
general obligations will guarantee this sector’s rights.
Regarding legislation, the countries of the Caribbean region have little background in laws to favor
persons with disabilities, except for Cuba, which in 1959 began taking concrete actions to serve
persons with disabilities.
For instance, barely half the Caribbean countries queried (Cuba, Dominican Republic and
Jamaica) have signed and ratifed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities and its optional protocol, in 2007 and 2008, but none except for Cuba has begun
effectively implementing it. (Cuba had already established inclusive educational laws before the
Convention.) This percentage could be taken as an indicator for the region for Caribbean countries
regarding the Convention and disability.
Caribbean countries must establish facilities to provide access to persons with disabilities to
support their progress just as with other members of society. Socio-economic conditions, structural
barriers and the lack of adapted, accessible software exclude persons with disabilities, mainly in
rural areas, from learning and using Internet, which clearly discriminates against their right to
• Disseminate information gathered in this study about the current status of the Caribbean region
in ICTs and disability, to discuss prevailing problems and generate effective proposals.
• Promote exchange of technologies to produce statistics in Caribbean countries, to fll the
great gap in data on disability in regard to ICT use.
• Incorporate training in ICTs in curricular plans for basic education in these countries.
• Narrow the huge gap caused by languages differences in the Caribbean, by exchanging
regional information on ICTs.
• Promote adoption of a participatory approach, by creating structures for communication
and collaboration to enable inter-regional coordination to strengthen actions among
governments, key stakeholders, international organizations, NGOs, the private sector and
civil society, fundamental elements to achieve full integration of persons with disabilities by
• Promote, at all levels, knowledge about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
CHALLENGES TO HIGHLIGHT IN THE THREE REGIONS
The lack of trained teachers, prohibitive costs, inadequate public policies and limited infrastructure
are challenges shared throughout the region.
The “inadequate legal framework” is weak in defending the rights of persons with disabilities, and
public policies fail to integrate education, work and society. Further, there is no harmonization
between laws on the rights of persons with disabilities and those regulating education, information
and communication technologies, access to information, copyright and non-discrimination.
The factors impeding progress toward a more inclusive society, including digital inclusion, include
the medical rehabilitation approach and lack of knowledge about disabilities among authorities
and society. This failure to mainstream disability yet in public policies means that funding is
insuffcient for teacher training and to set up physical infrastructure and accessible technology.
Organizations of persons with disabilities are also unaware of their rights and mechanisms to
demand their enforcement. Efforts to move forward in ICTs are isolated, and often pursued by civil-
society organizations, rather than by the government. Further, there is often confusion between
organizations of persons with disabilities and organizations providing services. There is also lack
of knowledge about disability, ICTs and ATs and their advantages in achieving equal opportunities
to include persons with disabilities in education and other areas of life. This lack of importance and
knowledge about these issues was concretely shown by the unresponsiveness of governmental
entities invited to take part in the study.
Low penetration by Internet, lack of exposure to advanced technology or the contents or
technologies available in local languages would seem to be less important as barriers.
CONCLUSIONS FROM THE STUDY
Signifcant progress has been made in regional agreements, providing a suitable frame of reference
for a social approach to the care model. Although adjustments are required to harmonize domestic
norms with international referents, much remains to be done for educational norms in the regions
to adopt provisions promoting educational inclusion according to the commitments acquired by
ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Human rights are evolving positively under constitutional frameworks and in laws on education and
disability. In Central America and some countries of the Caribbean, general education laws take
persons with disabilities into account through special education (with the exception of Panama).
The same trend can be observed in national Constitutions. This improves in national laws on
disability, which are more specifc and favor inclusive education or include both modalities.
In all three regions, there is no regulatory framework or specifc policies on digital inclusion,
much less on the use of ICTs for persons with disabilities. There are some isolated attempts to
implement ICTs in all sectors of society. Issues of accessibility, the right to education and the use
of technologies by persons with disabilities are not well integrated.
Specifc characteristics, such as Cuba’s prohibition to use broadband backbones, makes Internet use
very limited (Torricelli Law of 1992). This affects the implementation of general educational policies.
The use of free standards is still basic and there is still a long way to go. However, experiences have
been identifed that, although they do not use such standards, thanks to public-private partnerships
they are providing options for access to and training in ICTs for persons with disabilities through,
for example, corporate social responsibility programs.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE STUDY
• To change the medical rehabilitation approach and lack of knowledge about disability and
information and communication technologies and assistive technologies, governments and
organizations working in these areas must promote and disseminate the Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities at all levels, so that, through their purposes, principles
and general obligations, this sector’s rights can be guaranteed.
• Normative frameworks regarding disability and use of information and communication
technologies in education are not organized, much less for educational use of ICTs by
persons with disabilities. Therefore, public policies must be formulated, approved and/
or adjusted to harmonize educational, labor-related and social contexts in this region.
Governments must provide the budget allocations needed to develop ICTs and make them
accessible for persons with disabilities.
• This harmonization and adjustment of the normative and policy framework must involve
persons with disabilities as key stakeholders in social processes and empowerment, to
ensure that proposals are relevant.
• Concentrate greater efforts on training for teachers and professionals to use ICTs as tools
to help students with disabilities. However, considering that the variability is so great among
teachers’ capacities and practices, efforts must not only be focused on vocational training for
the grassroots, but also on-the-job training, through study circles or groups, inter-institutional
gatherings, internships, video-conferences, and so on.
• More support must be provided to help special education centers to evolve into technological
resource centers, providing more than just advice and counseling.
• UNESCO and the Trust for the Americas should promote research and projects regarding
ICT use and persons with disabilities, as well as orienting production of statistics in countries
of the Latin American and Caribbean region, since data or indicators in these areas are
• In addition to greater investment in technology, education and equipment, provide attention
to creating accessible infrastructure. Make adapted software and hardware available to
meet the challenges posed by students with disabilities, for the system, the institution and
• Promote alliances with agencies and institutions working with technologies, to
formulate and implement programs enabling access to different technologies and
supply of adapted equipment meeting the challenges of persons with disabilities.
• In teacher training and for students as well, include ICTs in curricular plans for basic
education, extending them to technical and university education, assuming that regular
school teachers will gradually be teaching more and more mainstreamed students with
• Defne mechanisms and criteria to identify good practices being generated in the use of
ICTs in education for persons with disabilities, to disseminate and replicate them, raising
them to the program level. Mechanisms must enable integration of practices from different
domains, including civil society, universities, technological institutions, government, etc.
• Multi-sectoral integration to tap the power of synergies, alliances and networking is vital to
make this type of initiatives more sustainable in the long term. Therefore, promoting adoption
of a participatory approach, and creating structures for communication and collaboration to
enable inter-regional exchange and coordination to strengthen actions among governments,
key stakeholders, international organizations, NGOs, the private sector and civil society, are
fundamental elements to achieve full integration of persons with disabilities by using ICTs.
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Educational, Scientific and
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