There are at least 50 million disabled people in Latin America – approximately 10% of the region’s population. Although methods of data collection across the region vary greatly, a recent study in Brazil estimates the prevalence of disabilities in the country at 14.5%. The incidence is especially high in post-conflict countries and in areas of natural disasters.
Disabilities are an important cause and consequence of poverty. About 82% of disabled people in Latin America live in poverty, which in most cases also affects family members. Disabled people tend to experience widespread exclusion from the social, economic and political life of the community, whether due to active stigmatization or to the neglect of their needs in the design of policies, programs and facilities.
Only about 20-30% of children with disabilities are attending school in the region. Lack of adequate transportation, teacher training, equipment, furniture, learning materials, and access to school infrastructure contribute to poor attendance to school by children with disabilities. In addition to these visible barriers, attitudinal barriers provide further impediments to a quality education for these children.
In Honduras, people with disabilities have an illiteracy rate of 51% compared to 19% for the general population.
About 80-90% of disabled people in Latin America are unemployed or outside the work force. Most of those who have jobs receive little or no monetary compensation.
In Argentina, the unemployment rate of disabled people is estimated to be close to 91%.
Most people with disabilities in the region lack access to health services and physical access to buildings. They are also more likely to be rejected by health insurers. As a result, important services or devices to help people with disabilities are not provided. In countries for which data is available, less than 20% of people with disabilities receive insurance benefits.
In Ecuador, 84% people with disabilities have no insurance benefits.