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A few years ago, after Argentina ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the government decided to develop suitable strategies to improve the lives of people with disabilities in the country. This was made through law 24901 in 1997. The National Commission for the Integration of People with Disabilities (Comisión Nacional Asesora para la Integración de las Personas con Discapacidad, CONADIS) was formed in 1999, and the Social Development Ministry committed to provide support. People with disabilities could get free access to medical treatments through health insurances. Health insurance institutions also played a relevant role in ensuring access to inclusive education for children with disabilities, but there was no system in country to develop specialist educational figures to help in this process. The Ministry of education also started speaking about integration at school and special education was gradually left aside in some cases.
On 5th of September 2017, the government of Argentina launched a new National Agency on Disability (Agencia Nacional de Discapacidad) with the decree 698/2017. This new decree abolished CONADIS, which was formed by organizations who served people with disabilities and Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs). The new Agency is composed by people not familiar to the sector, and there is skepticism on the expertise of the members.
A key issue is that the Agency was created without public consultations and without involving people with disabilities. As a result, many people are challenging the government’s actions, and protesting about the lack of transparency and participation.
Personally, I also agree that the creation of this new Agency wasn’t done properly. I believe that if there is an agency focusing on disability then it should influence and have representation in every ministry. Disability is a cross-cutting issue, and all ministries and secretaries should be involved in the process of improving the lives of people with disabilities, not just a single agency.
Over the past few months, the situation started getting worse. People with disabilities across the country started having more difficulties in obtaining approval for treatments, the insurance companies started paying with delays, and many medical providers started suspending treatments because they could not work and receive payments from 90 to 120 days after they provided their services.
Different organizations have been sending letters and meeting requests to the Chief of the Agency, Lic. Javier Ureta, and the Vice President, Madam Gabriela Michetti, without receiving any response. Unfortunately, nobody answered. In the meantime the Chief resigned 15 days before the end of his mandate and no information is currently available on who will be responsible for the Agency going forward.
It is frustrating to have a Vice President who is a person with disabilities herself, and still see what we see. We really thought she would really identify the obstacles and be proactive in finding appropriate solutions. It is hard to see that the government is not respecting the CRPD and is putting people with disabilities at risk. I hope for the good of our country that concrete and participated solutions will be developed soon. If not, Argentina will once again become a country where people with disabilities are systematically discriminated.
[Cover photo © AFFAPREI]
Micaela is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She graduated as an Educational Psychologist from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and has experience in high school, neurocognitive assessments and experiences of school inclusion of children with learning difficulties with a particular interest in Photo therapy. At the moment, she is working as a partner in the team Photo Therapy of Motivarte School and in different experiences of school inclusion of children with learning difficulties.