Disabled people in Brazil have conquered some of the rights that are ensured by law, but a lot has yet to be done to provide their full integration with society. Learn more about this subject in this article.
Accessibility is one of the main rights which must be assured to every citizen, being disabled or not. Not only access to the physical environment, such as public areas, but also to communication, to information, to transports, to technology and to every other service which is offered to the general public.
Despite some improvements made to attend the share of population which declares to have a kind of disability, it can be a real challenge to live in Brazil having its rights respected. Accessibility to buildings, restaurants, universities, hotels and public places in general is still being fought by organizations and associations that defend the basic rights for the citizens' special needs. Difficulties are found throughout the country, as the infrastructure needed is fully not available for everyone yet.
The progress is slowly being made. For instance, laws instituted that the manufacturing of buses without special adaptations to disabled people was prohibited since October 2008. This didn't solve the problem, though; IBDD or Instituto Brasileiro dos Direitos da Pessoa com Deficiência, the Brazilian institute for the defense of disabled people's rights, argues that the fleet renewal takes time, so even though there are buses already prepared to attend the impairment demand, some of them are not being used, and not all buses were substituted.
Brazilian Projects for Disabled People
The awareness to disabled people's accessibility has heightened over the years, and projects were created to attend the demand of this part of the population which already reaches 23,9% of all Brazilians.
Plano de Direitos da Pessoa com Deficiência – Viver Sem Limite
The Brazilian government created a project called Plano de Direitos da Pessoa com Deficiência - Viver Sem Limite, which is a project for disabled people's rights that aims to provide the basic and necessary right for impaired people. 23 out of the 27 Brazilian states have joined the project, which will cover aspects such as health, education and accessibility in general.
Cidade Acessível é Direitos Humanos
The government also instituted a project called Cidade Acessível é Direitos Humanos, free translated as accessible city is human rights. It aims to consolidate municipal rules for accessibility, as well as:
- provide measures that facilitates people's mobility, equally, whether they are disabled or not
- promote inspections to verify if the existing regulations are being respected
- take measures to promote the access to education and to make disabled people participate on the cultural life, including opportunities to develop and use their creativity, artistic and intellectual potentials.
By the time the project was instituted, 6 cities were chosen to serve as a role model of accessibility, due to the actions they had already made in this field: Campinas, in São Paulo; Fortaleza, in Ceará; Goiânia, in Goiás; Joinville, in Santa Catarina; Rio de Janeiro, in Rio de Janeiro; and Uberlândia, in Minas Gerais.
In Rio de Janeiro city, the challenge is even bigger. It is necessary to adjust the city for disabled people not only because of the 900000 disabled inhabitants out of 6 million that live there, but also due to the major sports events that will take place in the city, as it will be one of the main stages in FIFA World Cup, in 2014, and the host city for the Olympic Games in 2016. The government intention is to provide 100% access to disabled people in these events, and the subject was a priority when the projects for 2016 were being elaborated.
Although many rights are granted to disabled people, not all of them have actually been executed. There is still a severe lack of infrastructure which can be used for impaired people, and the changes are happening slowly.
Some of the rights granted to disabled people are:
- access to Libras or Língua Brasileira de Sinais, the Brazilian sign language, and to understanding of the television content
- access to books written in Braille, for visually impaired people
- that people in wheelchairs can enter buses without having to be carried
- that people in wheelchairs have free access to public toilets and other facilities
- that the spaces for wheelchair people are respected, allowing the person to rotate 360º
- priority attendance in public entities, such as
- welfare agencies, schools, universities and services for the citizens
- public services provider companies, such as transportation companies, post offices, airports, banks etc
- private companies, like travel agencies, banks, schools, universities. There is no need to be in line unless there are other disabled people, elderly, pregnant or women carrying babies in the same place.
More rights are granted to disabled people according to municipal and state laws, but the general goal of all of them is to provide accessibility.
Mobility is another right to all citizens, not only disabled ones. Buses must have either low entries or lifts for wheelchairs and taxis must be adapted to disabled people. Lifts are mandatory in metros, which, alongside buses, also have preferred seats for the elderly, pregnant women, women carrying babies and disabled people.
In 2012, the Comissão de Seguridade Social e Família, commission of social security and family, approved a proposal that obliges companies to offer adapted cars for the purchase by disabled consumers.
By 2011, Curitiba had an exclusive transport for disabled people. Known as Sites or Sistema Integrado de Transporte para Ensino Especial, the interconnected transport system for special education, it covered 85% of all the city's bus transport. The aim is to provide full access until 2014. The city also has a special transport system for disabled students: 56 adapted buses move in 52 bus lines and count with people that help students get in and off the bus, as well as support them inside the bus. Over 2400 students from 35 educational institutions are benefited with the service.
Due to the lack of signals and infrastructure, crossing a street or simply walking on the sidewalks may be a huge difficulty for disabled people. There are no audio signals for blind people to cross the streets, not all sidewalks have dropped kerbs, and not all the ones which have them, have them in good conditions.
Culture and Leisure
Venues are obliged to provide infrastructure for disabled people, and most of them have been adapting themselves to attend this demand. A lot has to be made yet to provide full disabled people's inclusion, though.
Disabled people have the right to pay half of the ticket total amount in concerts, theater plays, and general events. Since the laws that enforce this right are usually made by state, there can be variations. In Rio de Janeiro state, for instance, disabled people have free entrance in states, sports gyms and nautical parks of the state. In the Federal District, the disabled person's assistant also has the right to purchase the half-fare ticket.
The accessibility to sports events is also granted by law. Established in 2003, the Estatuto do Torcedor, sports fan estatute, ensures that people with any kind of impairment of reduced mobility will have access to the venues where the sports are taking place. The document also grants means of transportation, paid or not, to take disabled people from predetermined spots to the stadiums, in cases of events happening in places which comprise more than 10000 people.
In 2013 Confederations Cup, which occurred in June in Brazil, disabled people had a period of exclusivity to buy tickets for the matches. For the World Cup, the scheme will be different; around 2% of tickets will be reserved for disabled people, which will also be able to ask for a free ticket to an assistant.
Concerts, Theater Plays
Some of these establishments already follow the law and provide access to disable people; however, the spaces reserved for them end up being too far from the stages or in places where they have only a partial view of the show.
Concerts must have facilities to provide an easier access to disabled people, and it's also necessary to have areas where disabled people can stay – but it is not always like that. In the 2013 edition of Rock in Rio, which happened in Rio de Janeiro, for instance, disabled people had adapted cars to take them from the places where the event's shuttle buses stopped until the disabled people's exclusive entrance. Inside the event, there was exclusive space for disabled people and their assistants. Even though the floor was flatter than in the previous edition of the festival in 2011 – it was a mix of synthetic grass and stones – there were loosen pieces of stone, which could harm visually impaired people. Ramps were also steeper than they should, and the amusement park inside the event wasn't accessible for every disability.
Also, there were complaints regarding the position of the disabled people area compared to the stage, which didn't allow a full vision of the concert. Same problem faced by disabled people in 2013 Lollapalooza festival, where the complaints concerned the lack of seats for assistants and of coverage. Besides, the access to people in wheelchairs was a major difficulty, since the ground was composed by mud.
Music theaters such as Credicard Hall, in São Paulo, and Citibank Hall, in Rio de Janeiro, provide full access of disabled people to all sectors in the public. Also, toilets and others accesses are designed to attend the demand for special needs.
Most museums and cultural centers in Brazil still need to make changes in order to be structure to disabled people, but a few improvements are being made in some parts of the country.
A culture incentive program from Secretaria da Cultura do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo state's secretary of culture, will make available BRL 1,2 million to museums in São Paulo to adapt themselves to visually and hearing disabled people, who need infrastructure such as audio descriptions or images in low-relief and interpreters in Libras or legends, respectively.
Some museums of the city already are adapting to disabled people – the Football Museum has catalogs in Braille and the microbiology museum of Butantan Institute counts with tactile models for interaction.
In Bahia, by the end of 2012, only 6 out of 74 museums and cultural centers were accessible to disabled people. The lack of ramps or handrails was one of the many problems faced. The difficulties are being identified and changed.
Rio de Janeiro's museums are also trying to adapt themselves to facilitate accessibility. In Museu Casa de Santos Dumont, for instance, disabled people in wheelchairs can access the building through ramp or lift. Toilets are also adapted; hearing impaired people have access to videos whose content is in Libras and visually handicaps have tactile models and signs written in Braille.
São Paulo has an accessibility guide which appoints the most accessible venues in terms of concerts, theaters, museums and libraries, among others. You can check it in this link.
Shopping malls usually follow all the procedures to provide access to disabled people. Most of them have parking lots which have a section for larger parking areas, exclusive for disabled people's cars. They also count with ramps, lifts and escalators, and some of them have tactile floors to help signaling.
A Municipal law in São Paulo determines that restaurants, snack bars, hotels and similar establishments are also obliged to provide menus in Braille, if they are requested to. The state of Paraíba has a similar law.
Every company, independently from its sector, whose staff is composed by more than 99 employees must hire disabled people, according to a national law. This law also provides other regulations aiming to increase disabled people's accessibility. Instituted in 1991, it obliges companies to have disabled people as a percentage of the staff, according to the following table:
|Number of employees||Disabled staff by São Paulo's law|
|Up to 200||2%|
|From 201 to 500||3%|
|From 501 to 1000||4%|
|From 1001 on||5%|
Disabled people also have the right to social and professional reeducation and readaptation in order to participate on the labor market. They can also have a flexible and reduced working time, and salary proportionality, when necessary, in order to fit with special conditions, according to the disability degree. There must be no distinction of salary between disabled people and non-disabled.
Since it was rare for companies to hire disabled people before the law obliged it, there mustn't be a demand for previous experiences from disabled candidates. In case it is necessary to have a previous experience in that specific sector, the own company has to provide the opportunity for the person to acquire the abilities and knowledge required.
People applying for concursos públicos, which are governmental positions, must be submitted to the same standards of non-disabled people in terms of the content of the exam, the evaluation and the approval criteria, the hour and place where the test will occur and the minimum grade demanded from all candidates. The only difference is that 5% of all positions are granted to disabled people.
Tax Reductions and Exemptions
Disable people are granted with different rates of taxes when it comes to buying products which help in the mobility – from personal equipment, such as ochular prostheses, to cars. You can check some of the measures taken by the government to provide these lower costs in this article.
Anvisa determined in 2009 that all medications must be written both in Portuguese and in Braille. SUS or Sistema Único de Saúde, the basic health system, must have at least 5% of employees who are able to use and interpret Libras.
In São Paulo, people who can't afford prosthesis or wheelchairs may request them to the hospital network of the city. For that, the person need to have been attended in the city's health network and to present a specific medical report.
No educative organization can prohibit a student to enroll in a course due to his disability. Schools and universities which are not prepared for disabled students must adapt, providing equipment and material that will help in the educational process and in communication. People in wheelchairs have the right to a classroom on the ground floor – in case the institution classes are in other floors and there are no ramps, lifts or moving walkways –, visually impaired people have the right to books and tests written in Braille and hearing disabled people have the right to an education in Libras.
Andrea Schwarz, who is disabled and founder of a consulting company, created a touristic guide which shows places that have been adapted to disabled people's needs. Available as a book and online, it lists places in Brazil which are already adapted to receive disabled tourists, besides giving tips on restaurants and hotels that are also available for impaired people. The touristic guide can be accessed in this link.
Visually Impaired and Guide Dogs
Brazil is the only country in Latin America which trains guide dogs, and the number of guide dog schools will increase with Viver Sem Limite plan. Disabled people are allowed to take their guide dogs to every public establishment and to public transports. The dogs just cannot enter surgical rooms and centers of intensive therapy, known in Brazil as CTIs. Establishments which disobey the law may be charged with fines that vary from BRL 1000 to BRL 30000, and reach BRL 50000 in cases of recidivism.
Infrastructure may be a huge obstacle for disable people's accessibility, but it is not the only one. The own population seems not ready to deal with the special needs of disabled people, partly because they cannot see any difficulties in the things the disabled people are trying to do, but partly because they still tend to exclude people who are different.
This mentality has started to change as socially excluded groups try to gain their space in society. Although it is a lot more common to see people with some kind of disability working, studying and living just like other people, a lot has to be made yet in order to get impaired people really into society. People still have to understand and to become aware of the needs and difficulties of impaired people, so that a real coexistence can occur.