Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 06:26 GMT

Honduras: Treatment of the disabled

Publisher United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Author Resource Information Center
Publication Date 19 December 1997
Citation / Document Symbol HND98001.zla
Cite as United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Honduras: Treatment of the disabled, 19 December 1997, HND98001.zla, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df0a4b74.html [accessed 11 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Query:

1. How are the disabled (particularly visibly disabled individuals, such as those in wheelchairs) viewed and treated in Honduras by society?

2. What kind of laws have been promulgated to ensure equal access and opportunity for disabled individuals in Honduras vis-à-vis education, employment, transportation, and public and private accommodations? If laws to help the disable do exist, are they enforced?

3. What kind of social services (i.e., rehabilitation programs) exist to help disabled Hondurans?

4. Is there a medical safety net for the disabled individuals in Honduras that are unable to find work and therefore attain private insurance?

Response:

1. To some extent the disabled in Honduras have been discarded by society. Although they are not being directly persecuted by the Honduran government, they have seemingly been abandoned. For the common disabled individual who is unable to afford medical assistance there are no outlets provided by the government. Often, individuals are forced to live in squalor while confined to their homes. No where is this situation more evident than on the coast of La Mosquitia. According to Kathy Tschiegg, Director of Central American Medical Outreach (CAMO), "because the La Mosquitia region is so inaccessible, hundreds of men, women, and children who live there are virtual prisoners in their own homes because they have been crippled in one way or another." The Honduran government has made no attempts to provide assistance to these citizens and without the help of organizations like CAMO - which is based in Orrville, Ohio and provides various kinds of aid only in Honduras through the Hospital de Occidente in Santa Rosa de Copan and Teletón (see response # 3) - these individuals would continue to exist in intolerable conditions. Through CAMO twenty-five wheelchairs were donated to people living on the La Mosquitia coast. "The wheelchair project is one of many CAMO has been involved in. The program has also created the first physical therapy and mammography unit ever installed in a Honduran public hospital." (Honduras This Week, 26 May 1997, p. 2).

No factual data is available about the treatment of the disabled in Honduras. To know whether victimization of the disabled is rampant in Honduran society, one must live within that society. Dr. Lobo, a General Director at Teletón, believes that it is very unlikely for the common disabled to be a victim of a crime. Through a telephone interview, she states, "persons in Honduras that are disabled, are usually not bothered, tampered with or persecuted by others." If anything, she believes that citizens are often sympathetic to the disabled and are likely to aid them whenever possible. Kathy Tschiegg of CAMO offers a different view, she believes that the disabled are oftentimes abused. Because of their disabilities and their inability to properly defend themselves, material possessions are constantly stolen from the disabled. While in Honduras, she witnessed the theft of a wheelchair from a beneficiary of the CAMO Wheelchair Project. It is evident from speaking with both Dr. Lobo and Miss Tschiegg that because there has been no research done on the victimization of the disabled in Honduras, it is virtually impossible to have an accurate picture of the treatment of disabled Hondurans. (Telephone interview with Lobo & Tschiegg on 17 December 1997).

2. According to the U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practice for 1996, "[t]here are no formal barriers to participation by disabled persons in employment, education, and health care, but neither is there specific statutory or constitutional protection for them. There is no legislation that requires accessibility for disabled persons to government buildings or commercial establishments." However, La Gaceta, an official publication of the Republic of Honduras, refers to a law in existence with the intended purpose of ensuring equal access and opportunity for persons with disabilities. That law is Derecto No. 184-187, which was written in December of 1987. It guarantees equal rights to the disabled and it clearly defines the state's responsibility towards them. It should also be taken into consideration, however, that there is no evidence to support whether this law has had any practical impact in Honduras. Nor is there any evidence which shows that effort has been put forth by the Honduran government to ensure that this law be put into practice. As a result, organizations, Teletón, in particular, are working towards integrating the disabled within Honduran society by creating more acceptance and a greater understanding of disabled persons. Such efforts have brought forth new laws and amendments like Article 7 of Decreto No. 73-93 for the protection of children with disabilities. Teletón has also been instrumental in the passage of Decreto 17-91 which promotes employment for disabled individuals. Again, it is important to note that laws have been written with the intention of guaranteeing a better life for the disabled in Honduras yet such laws have not been put into practice. (Telephone interview with Dr. Rina Zelaya de Lobo on 26 November 1997).

3. The Teletón Rehabilitation Center, a non-governmental organization, is the only social service of its kind based in Honduras that provides assistance to the common disabled. The center is located in San Pedro, Tegucigalpa, and Santa Rosa de Copan. Teletón is an organization that addresses the needs of the common disabled on the street, consequently, the majority of their patients are not required to pay for any services provided, nor are they able to. Nonetheless, it remains a very functional organization that is financed not only by donations through its yearly Telethon Event but also though UNICEF and the aforementioned, Central American Medical Outreach (CAMO). Their main objectives are to:

a. Promote equal opportunities for the disabled in Honduras by integrating them within every facet of society.

b. Create rehabilitation programs for children and adults with physical and/or mental disabilities,

c. Support the state in carrying out their responsibility for providing resources for the disabled.

In 1997, studies done by Teletón estimated that at least 560,827 Hondurans have some sort of disability. Of that figure, Teletón has been able to provide assistance to over 25,000 persons with disabilities - whether directly through rehabilitation programs, or indirectly, through educational programs. Currently, Teletón is working towards encouraging businessmen to hire disabled individuals.

4. Like most Central American countries, a large sector of Honduras' population lives in extreme poverty. Over 80% of Hondurans are without health care and only those who are wealthy or those who work in the larger cities have access to Medical Social Security. It should be noted, however, that the public health care system is running on a deficit and most hospitals have nonfunctional equipment and limited resources. Consequently, those who are unable to pay for services are ignored by the medical system. Without organizations like Teletón, many poor disabled Hondurans would go unrecognized. Many would be denied access to rehabilitation programs and other necessary services that would assist them in their daily lives.

References:

Fundacion Teletón de Honduras. Centro De Diseno Arquitectura y Construccion. Accesibilidad: Educacion, Concientizacion y Eliminacion de Barreras Arquitectonicas. p. 2.

Hoge, Nancy. "Program Makes it Possible for Disabled Miskitos to Get Around," Honduras This Week Online, Edition 55 (26 May 1997). [Internet] .

La Gaceta (Tegucigalpa: 28 December 1987), 4p.

Tschiegg, Kathy, Director, Central American Medical Outreach (CAMO). Telephone interview, 5 and 17 December 1997

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor. "Honduras," Country Report on Human Rights Practice for 1996, Section 5 (Washington, DC. U.S. Government Printing Office, 30 January 1997), p. 31.

Zelaya de Lobo, Rina, General Director for the Rehabilitation Centers Integrated by Teleton. Telephone Interview, 26 November 1997 and 17 December 1997.

Attachments:

Brochure on Teletón. Fundación Teletón de Honduras, 4p.

"Estatutos De La Fundacion Teletón Honduras, De Tegucigalpa Departamento de Francisco Morazan," La Gaceta (Tegucigalpa: 28 December 1987), 2p.

Hoge, Nancy. "Program Makes it Possible for Disabled Miskitos to Get Around". Honduras This Week Online, Edition 55 (26 May 1997), 2p. [Internet] .

"Ley de Habilitación y Rehabilitación de la Persona Minusvalida," La Gaceta (Tegucigalpa: 22 December 1987), 4p.

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