Unlocking Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Paraguay
Through improving labor access, Paraguay has made recent advancements to become a more inclusive and equal society. Although only 15% of people worldwide have disabilities, an estimated 80% of them are out of work. Fundacion Saraki is at the forefront of finding employment and thus improving the lives of people with disabilities in Paraguay. Its first step was to work toward compliance with a congressional law providing labor inclusion in public institutions.

Congress agreed to grant the foundation an agreement for the “Effective Labor Inclusion” of those with disabilities in both the private and public sectors. Through this, Fundacion Saraki has begun to work toward increasing access to jobs with companies such as McDonald’s and Supermercados España, a Paraguayan supermarket chain. Both companies recently hired interns with disabilities who were later offered jobs with the companies in Capiata and San Lorenzo, two cities near the capital, Asunción.

The foundation has also worked to improve building access. Working with architecture students from local universities, the foundation is working toward raising building standards in the country. Students inspect the buildings and make recommendations to the companies housed there on how to improve their construction to accommodate disabled workers and customers. Thus, this solution is an improvement for both those with disabilities who can enjoy increased services and the companies who serve them in increasing their consumer base. They have also worked toward improving bus conditions to increase the ease of riding for everyone.

Through cooperation with USAID and the National Democratic Institute, the foundation has reached an agreement with Paraguay’s Superior National Electoral Tribunal to ensure improved participation of those with disabilities in the country’s upcoming election in November 2015. These organizations have recently published a manual titled “Equal Access: How To Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes.” Through this publication and continuing efforts on the part of all involved organizations, previous obstacles that prevented disabled people from voting in elections will be removed. Because those who are disabled are often also poor and marginalized, their voices in the political process are crucial.

“We are trying to work the government because in Paraguay disabilities have not been a priority, and we hope to have a greater impact on the private industry as well,” said Fundacion Saraki’s Executive Director Maria Jose Cabezudo Cuevas. Indeed, improving the quality of life and increasing opportunities for those with disabilities supports success and creates a more inclusive, fairer society for everyone.

– Jenny Wheeler

Sources: USAID, National Democratic Institute
Photo: USAID