Independent Living Institute


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


Download 'Government Reports on the UN Standard Rules' as a PDF file (440 KB)
© Dimitris Michailakis 1997

Ministry of Social Affairs (15 April 1996)
Compare with the following Country Report(s): DPI, ILSMH

General policy

There is an officially recognized disability policy which is expressed in law, in guidelines adopted by the Government, in guidelines adopted by the National Secretariat for Rehabilitation, in policy adopted by political parties and in policy adopted by NGOs. The emphasis - in descending scale - is on: anti-discrimination law, individual support, prevention, accessibility measures, rehabilitation.

The following actions have been undertaken by the Government conveying the message of full participation of persons with disabilities: the National Secretariat for Rehabilitation has discussed the issue of full participation, it has printed a Portuguese version of the Standard Rules, which has been disseminated. In addition, TV and RADIO campaigns have been stressing the message included in the Standard Rules.


The rights of disabled people are protected by a combination of special and general legislation. Judicial mechanisms are available to people with disabilities. This includes due process (legal remedy through courts). The National Secretariat for Rehabilitation is a non-judicial body protecting the rights of people with a disability. The Ombudsman is dealing in general with anti-discrimination issues.

The general legislation applies to all categories of disabled persons with respect to: education, employment, the right to marriage, the right to parenthood/family, political rights, access to court-of-law, right to privacy, property rights. However, the Government has attached a special note stating that, according to the Constitution, the mentally disabled persons, provided enablement to fulfil their duties are subject to special legal provisions included in the general legislation concerning: marriage, parenthood, voting right and right to be elected or to hold office in public authorities or even to fulfil public functions, access to court-of-law, in which they are entitled to be represented by their representatives officially appointed. Concerning the performance of a function before a Notarial Office, deaf and blind persons are considered unfit to serve as warrantors, interpreters, experts, translators, readers or witnesses. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: medical care and other health care, training, rehabilitation and counselling, financial security (financial security implying the following benefits: life pension, death grant, severe disablement allowance, special education allowance, income maintenance), employment (implying: financial grant for self-employment installation, reduction of taxes to employers in order to employ disabled persons in the open labour market, grants to employers for adapting working stations, personalized reception in firms), independent living (it implies: tax exemption for buying private car, interest-free loans for purchasing or building self-housing, preference in attribution of social housing, supported house rentals) and participation in decisions affecting them.

After the adoption of the Standard Rules no new legislation concerning disability and rehabilitation has been enacted. Nevertheless some of the existing legislation was reviewed for improvement or regulation.


There are Guidelines and Resolutions concerning all existing public buildings and buildings receiving public (e.g. theatres, cinemas, museums, post offices, etc.), including those in construction, to make them accessible to all citizens. Local municipalities ensure municipal regulations compelling the implementation of rules of accessibility to buildings and other urban environment. The Guidelines also establish that the outdoor environment, the land, sea and air transportation are made accessible. Accessibility in the build environment is observed by national authority and local Governments. The measures facilitating accessibility in the build environment are: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, installing automatic doors (in some cases), installing or widening lifts and installing accessible toilets (in some cases), access to public places (in some cases), installing special lighting, sound signals and contrast colours for visually impaired. According to specific legislation of the local Authorities (Municipalities) the public transport in Lisbon, Oporto and Coimbra is either free or subsidized. Special transport is available for education, work, medical treatment, recreational purpose. When planning to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are the following factors: attitudinal, economic/budgetary, geographical and climatic, lack of legislation and regulations, lack of planning and design capacity, lack of knowledge, research and information, lack of user participation, 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. The Government has not taken any measures to encourage media or other forms of public information services to make their information services accessible for persons with disabilities. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and other persons: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, easy readers for persons with mental disabilities, and sign language interpretation available for any purpose. Regarding sign language interpretation the Government states that in Portuguese law system guarantees the presence of a sign language interpreter in the Courts-of-Law, offices of notary, housing registration offices and civil registration offices.

Organizations of persons with disabilities

There is a national umbrella organization (UCNOD, Uniao Coordenadra National dos Organismos de Deficientes). In addition, some NGOs joined in Federations, such as the Portuguese Federation of Deaf People (gathering different associations concerned with the deaf population), Sports Federation of Disabled People (gathering several associations of disabled persons). 22 NGOs are affiliated in UCNOD. There are about 250 NGOs duly recognized in the country which are not represented in UCNOD. Legal provisions mandate representatives of disabled persons to participate in policy-making and to work with Governmental institutions. They are represented at the National Council of Rehabilitation. Disability organizations are often consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared. This occurs at the national level. The Government financially supports organizations of disabled persons. Organizational/logistic, juridical and technical support is also given. Persons with disabilities participate to a very limited extent in Government, legislature, judiciary, to some extent in political parties and to a great extent in NGOs. In Portugal 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, contribute to public awareness, provide services, promote/organize income generating activities.

Co-ordination of work

The National Secretariat for Rehabilitation is the national co-ordinating committee. It is reporting to the Ministry of Solidarity and Social Security. It includes representatives from several ministries, from organizations of persons with disabilities, other NGOs, from the Confederation of Employers, from the National Association of Municipalities (Local Authorities), and from Trade Unions Confederations. The co-ordinating committee is expected to participate in policy development and to perform other tasks, including the co-ordination of all sectorial policies; engaging in a permanent dialogue with NGOs and hearing their needs; information and awareness raising campaigns. The establishment of the committee has lead to: improved co-ordination of measures/programmes, improved legislation, improved integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field, more effective use of resources, and improved promotion of public awareness.

The adoption of the Standard Rules has ideologically reinforced the general rehabilitation policy already enforced and increased the national efforts towards the establishment of a national rehabilitation planning for the year 2000.

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