Santo Domingo.- Around 15% of the global population, or at least one billion people, live with some form of disability. This statistic includes nearly 240 million children, with a significant portion in Latin America and the Caribbean, where approximately 19.1 million children and adolescents have disabilities. However, 70% of school-age children and adolescents with disabilities in this region do not attend school. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, endorsed by the Dominican Republic, aims to ensure equal rights and freedoms for children with disabilities.
In the Dominican Republic, UNICEF highlights that one in ten children between 2 and 17 years old has a disability. The situation is more acute among the 5-17 age group, with 11.3% having a disability. Carlos Carrera, UNICEF’s country representative, points out that these children and their families face numerous barriers, including negative societal attitudes, lack of supportive policies, and limited educational and economic opportunities.
To address these challenges, significant initiatives have been undertaken in the Dominican Republic. In December 2022, 500 families with disabled children received a social protection bonus, spearheaded by First Lady Raquel Arbaje. This effort aims to ensure equal rights for these children and adolescents. Despite such measures, families like Antonia Peguero’s, who has a son with Down syndrome, still face hardships due to economic realities and high living costs.
Efforts to promote inclusive education are underway, with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF implementing pilot projects to transform education services for inclusive learning. This initiative involves the development of a National Inclusive Education Model to enhance inclusive education services in regular and special schools. UNICEF calls for societal change to overcome prejudices and eliminate barriers, ensuring inclusion for all children and adolescents with disabilities.