by Chastidy Vasconez
Last week I tagged along with my friend to her placement at Fundacion Mundo Sin Barreras—a disabilities house that supports people of ranging conditions, providing them with computer, art, and music classes, along with occupational therapy. I had the opportunity to sit in on a music class and watch the student band play. Shaking a tambourine to their beat, I was thoroughly impressed by their performance. They wrote their own songs. They sang and played their own instruments with incredible energy. I was happy to see such a warm, safe, and all-inclusive space for people with disabilities to express themselves creatively.
Individuals with disabilities are often unable to thrive because of the absence of opportunities made available for them. Growing up in Ecuador, my father struggled to access the same resources that other people took for granted because of his hearing condition. Consequently, he fell behind in his classes, was frequently teased, and regularly got into fights with other students. Upon immigrating to the United States in his early 20s, he was finally able to find programs and communities that supported him through his challenges.
Since Vice President Lenín Moreno’s election in 2007, Ecuador has made steps to better support people with disabilities. Moreno, a big disabilities advocate, launched social service initiatives in order to target the institutionalized discrimination and social isolation this marginalized community faces. Over the last decade, he has implemented policies to better aid those with disabilities, and increased the government budget allocated from $900,000 a year to roughly $200 million a year. There has also been an increase in public accommodations for individuals with disabilities including state and local support services, employment opportunities, and better transportation. Moreno became a prominent figure and role model for those with disabilities, and his presence as Vice President led to his victory in the presidential election back in 2017. He is currently the world’s only elected head of state with paraplegia.
Moreno’s progressive policies have brought greater inclusion in the governing system and society in Ecuador, but this nation along with many other nations, still have a long way to go to create a world that is easier to navigate for those with disabilities. It is important to continue providing equitable opportunities and resources, such as Mundo Sin Barreras, that allow individuals to reach their full potential. An environment bred to give way for the success of those most vulnerable in our communities will be essential to creating a nation that is all-inclusive.