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Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles

Colombia

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© Dimitris Michailakis 1997

Transmitted by Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York (21 March 1996)
General policy

The officially recognized disability policy in Colombia is expressed in law, in guidelines adopted by the Government, and in guidelines adopted by the national disability council. The emphasis - in descending scale - is on rehabilitation, individual support, accessibility measures and prevention. There is no emphasis on anti-discrimination law.

Since the adoption of the Rules the Government has conveyed the message of full participation by means of a national plan concerning prevention and awareness raising, 1994-1998. The plan has been incorporated in the Law 188 of 1994.

Legislation

The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by a combination of special and general legislation. The judicial mechanism available to protect the rights of persons with disabilities is due process (legal remedy through courts) while the non-judicial mechanism includes an Ombudsman.

The general legislation applies to persons with different disabilities with respect to education, political rights, access to court-of-law, right to privacy, property rights. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: health and medical care, training, rehabilitation and counselling, financial security.

No new legislation has been enacted since the adoption of the Rules but there a law is in the process of being enacted.

Accessibility

There are laws and regulations ensuring accessibility of the build environment requiring that public places and the outdoor environment are made accessible. Accessibility in the build environment is observed by a national authority and local Governments. The only measure promoted by the Government in order to facilitate accessibility in the build environment is financial incentives for accessibility measures when building and renovating housing. There is no special transport system. When planning to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are attitudinal factors, lack of knowledge, research and information, and lack of co-operation from other organizations/institutions. There is no disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers.

Sign language for deaf people is recognized as the main means of communication between deaf persons and others. There are no measures for encouraging media and other forms of public information to make their services accessible for persons with disabilities. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and others: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, sign language interpretation being available for major events.

Organizations for persons with disabilities
There is a national umbrella organization where all existing organizations are represented. There are legal provisions mandating the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy development and to work with Governmental institutions. Organizations of disabled people are sometimes consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared. No support is given to existing or new organizations. Persons with disabilities participate to a very limited extent in judicial authorities and political parties, to some extent in Government and legislature and to a great extent in NGOs. The disabled persons' organizations have the role to advocate rights and improved services, mobilize persons with disabilities, identify needs and priorities, participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and measures concerning the lives of persons with disabilities, provide services, and promote/organize income generating activities.

Co-ordination of work

The national co-ordinating committee is reporting to the Ministry of Health and to the vice President. The committee includes representatives of organizations of persons with disabilities, other NGOs, representatives from the academic sector etc. The Government expects the committee to participate in policy development and to perform other tasks. It is too early for an assessment about the effects from the establishment of the co-ordinating committee.

The adoption of the Rules has led to a rethinking of the approach to disability policy in the sense that the Rules provide a framework for a more comprehensive disability policy.


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