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The 1st and the 2nd National Conferences on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which were hosted by the Lula administration, were milestones in the establishment of a participatory management model for the creation of targeted policies for this segment of the population. From there, people with disabilities have become not only advocates on their own behalf, but active political agents.
The two conferences paved the way for significant achievements that came in the form of resolutions and motions that aided in the development of specific public policies for this population segment, as well as the National Human Rights Program (PNDH-3).
Public consultations conducted by the federal government shined a spotlight on the role of persons with disabilities in society and changed the way that presidential decrees, regulations, programs, and initiatives are developed. They are, therefore, the effective co-authors of critical policies, such as presidential decrees No. 5,296/2004, addressing Accessibility; No. 5,626/2005, regarding the more widespread education about and use of Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS); and No. 5,904/2006, which sets forth regulations on the use of guide dogs; among others.
Proper logistics for the staging of conferences was also a key topic of discussion, with a view toward large mobilizations and adequate infrastructure able to accommodate all persons with disabilities who participate.
Since the end of 2011, no less than 15 federal ministries have united around a common goal – to ensure full citizenship for people with disabilities. Living Without Limits: A National Plan for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities fulfills the commitment of Worker’s Party (PT) led administrations to ensure that all Brazilians can live their lives free of discrimination, maintaining their rights to personal development and autonomy.
Living Without Limits asserts the fundamental fact that, although persons with disabilities exist within all social groups and ages, there is a close relationship between extreme poverty and severity of the conditions of an individual’s disability. Motivated by these indicators, the plan pays particular attention to people living in extreme poverty.
With a total budget of R$ 7.5 billion (US$ 2.6 billion) through the end of 2014, Living Without Limits is organized into four areas – access to education, health care, social inclusion, and accessibility.
Extending the rights to education to disabled persons includes making school transportation accessible, architectural adaptation of schools and federal institutions of higher education, implementation of new multi-functional features and upgrading of existing ones, as well as increasing the number of vacancies available in federal professional training courses and technological programs.
By March 2014, 30,000 schools and 59 universities received federal funds to assist them with architectural adaptation projects, which include the purchase of materials and assistive technology equipment – that offer assistance, rehabilitation and improvement in the quality of life of people with disabilities. As well, 1,366 vehicles were delivered to 994 municipalities, while 11,600 persons with disabilities enrolled in the National Program for Access to Technical Education and Employment (PRONATEC).
Among the principal health care initiatives is the National Neonatal Screening Program, whose focus is on the detection of and early intervention strategies for major diseases and risk factors that affect infants up to two months of age.
This will allow for more effective clinical management planning. Seventy-five hospitals have received funds to purchase equipment and twenty-three are already conducting these tests.
Living Without Limits focus on Health Care also provides for the construction or renovation of Specialized Rehabilitation Centers (CERs) to increase access to and the quality of services provided within Brazil’s Unified Health System (SUS). In 2013, 102 CERs were established.
The My House, My Life 2 initiative assures that people with disabilities will have the right to housing adapted to their physical, sensory, and intellectual capabilities. The program provides for the construction of 1.2 million adapted units and the supply of 20,000 units adapted according to particular disability types, e.g., hearing, visual, physical, intellectual, and dwarfism.
Eligible families may have a monthly family income of up to R$ 1,600.00 (US$ 561.00) and are selected by municipalities, states, the federal district or private nonprofit organizations authorized by the Ministry of Cities, in urban and rural areas. By mid-July 2014, the program had contracted for the construction of 916,763 adapted units, while 11,380 such units were made available to eligible families.
Implemented by Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Brazilian Innovation Agency (FINEP), the National Innovation Program for Assistive Technology aims to support the development of products, methodologies, strategies, practices, and innovative services that increase the autonomy, welfare and quality of life of people with disabilities.
FINEP funding is made available to universities, research institutes, and companies that undertake innovative research with high technological risk associated with market opportunities.
Launched in 2012 by Banco do Brasil, BB’s Accessible Credit program offers financing for products (motorized wheelchairs, portable braille computers, vehicle adaptations, etc.), offering amounts between R$ 70 and R$ 30,000 (US$ 25 and US$ 10,500), at interest rates of between 0.41% and 0.45% per month. As of mid-July 2014, 21,102 transactions were carried out, totaling R$ 122.2 million (US$ 42.8 million).
In 2005, President Lula received an audience at the Palácio do Planalto (the official workplace of the president of Brazil) from members of the National Movement for the Reintegration of Persons Afflicted by Hansen’s Disease (MORHAN), who presented him with proposals for improving the quality of life for this segment of society.
Since then, various initiatives have been undertaken, which have resulted in advances for these individuals. The first step was to recognize that the Brazilian state had violated the rights of persons afflicted with Hansen’s Disease and had subjected them to compulsory commitment to, and isolated within hospitals, with a colony still existing as late as December 31, 1986 (even after the World Health Organization had established that physical segregation of such persons should be eliminated).
Among other advances, approximately 11,000 people affected by the segregationist policy, which was established in Brazil in 1923 as a prophylaxis against “leprosy,” won the right to receive reparations, by way of a special indemnifying pension.