2009 Bolivia Report



Monitoring the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Bolivia


Confederación Boliviana de la Persona con Discapacidad (C.O.B.O.P.D.I.)
With Technical Assistance & Support from:
Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.)

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Report Summary

Conceptual framework and scope

Training participants pose outside for a group photo.
Monitors, site coordinators and other members of D.R.P.I. Bolivia team at the training seminar in Santa Cruz.

Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.) is an international project aimed at establishing a system for monitoring disability rights across the globe, according to human rights norms and principles and particularly those set out in the recently adopted United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The project develops tools, methods and capacity among persons with disabilities and their organizations to monitor disability rights.

Country reports are based on D.R.P.I. research to monitor the status of rights of people with disabilities at two levels: systemic and individual. The systemic focus reviews national and regional legislation as well as case law, government programs and policy to assess the degree to which disability rights are being protected, promoted and fulfilled. The individual focus documents individual experiences of access to or denial of human rights of adults with various types of impairments. On the basis of these analyses, country reports present recommendations to improve the human rights situation of people with disabilities in the countries monitored.

The information is collected, analyzed and presented by persons with disabilities and their organizations. In Bolivia, the D.R.P.I. study was led by a confederation of organizations called Confederacion Boliviana de la Persona con Discapacidad (C.O.B.O.P.D.I.). Monitoring the Human Rights of People with Disabilities Country Report: Bolivia

Systemic focus findings

Three male training participants are seated around a wooden table while practicing interviews.
Monitors practice conducting interviews

The Bolivian state has signed but not yet ratified, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At the national level, the Constitution of Bolivia contains provisions that protect the human rights and freedoms of all citizens, and prohibit discrimination on various grounds, including disability. Prohibition of disabilityrelated discrimination in employment, education, health and social services, both public and private, is also enshrined in Law 1678 of 15 December 1995, the most important legislation framing issues of disability in the country. In practice however, these provisions have not been sufficiently enforced. Law 1678 created the National Council of People with Disabilities as a decentralized body of the Ministry of Human Development charged with implementation of disability policy in Bolivia. The same law, however, still advances an understanding of disability that is informed by a medical, rather than by a rights-based approach. This study has further found that even where the Bolivian state has introduced improved legal measures, these are often not translated into practice because of a lack of knowledge about, and commitment to, disability rights among public officials, private entities and society in general.

In addition, this study has also documented that important gaps and deficits persist in the provision of services for people with disabilities in the areas of education, employment, communications, accessibility and health. These gaps compound the discrimination and marginalization experienced by people with disabilities in the Bolivian society. Official data indicate that over 65% of people with disabilities in Bolivia live under the poverty line (Instituto Nacional de Estatistica and P.N.U.D., 2005).

The disability movement in Bolivia is organized in a large confederation (C.O.B.O.P.D.I.) which brings together the national associations representing the various constituencies in the disability community. The Federation is active in promoting the human rights agenda for people with disabilities in Bolivia.

Individual focus findings

Three training participants (1 male and 2 female) are sit at a table to practice their interviewing skills.
Monitors practice conducting interviews

102 interviews with persons with various types of impairments were conducted and analyzed for this study. Data were collected in two regions of the country: La Paz and Santa Cruz. The study examined experiences of access and denial of human rights faced by people with disabilities, by considering in particular five key human rights principles: dignity (perceptions of self‐worth), autonomy (ability to make choices and decisions on issues that affect one’s own life), nondiscrimination and equality (having disability‐related differences respected and disadvantages addressed), participation and inclusion (being able to participate fully on equal terms with others) and respect for difference (being recognized and valued as equal participants).

This study has found high rates of discrimination and violation of human rights on the grounds of disability among the interviewees. Abuse often took place in the family context where over 50% of the respondents reported having faced discriminatory attitudes which prevent them for participating as equals in family life.

In addition, the study revealed that the education system and the labour market are spheres of life where many people with disabilities have encountered discrimination and exclusion. This has led many to look for work in the informal economy which, in turn, offers low and precarious income, affecting their quality of life.

Respondents have also indicated that the Bolivian social welfare and health services do not respond adequately to their needs and in many cases operate in ways that create further discrimination for them. Barriers to access transportation systems, in particular, were reported by a large number of people with disabilities, particularly those with mobility impairments, exposing many to multiple forms of discrimination and violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Conclusions & Recommendations

Based on these findings, C.O.B.O.P.D.I., the Bolivian confederation of organizations of persons with disabilities that led the study, decided upon the following conclusions and recommendations:

  • Awareness Raising: Disseminate the report to raise awareness in society and at the political level about the human rights situation of people with disabilities in Bolivia
  • Develop economic and social programs: On the basis of the outcomes of this report, develop new employment initiatives for people with disabilities, and new social programmes at both the local and national levels
  • Implement disability awareness program through the Ministry of Education: To fight the current stereotyping of people with disabilities and promote a more inclusive Bolivian society a national disability awareness program should be implemented through the Ministry of Education, to reach children across the country as well as their families
  • Revise legislation and policies: With the active involvement of disability organizations, Bolivian legislation and policies in the area of disability should be revised, amended or replaced to reflect the treatment of disability as a human rights issue, and to implement the norms and standards of the U.N.Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


This project, “Monitoring the Human Rights of People with Disabilities in Bolivia” has taken place in the context of the Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI) project. DRPI aims to build capacity and develop a sustainable global system for monitoring disability rights. Monitoring takes place in three focus areas: individual experiences (collecting information about the actual situation of people with disabilities on the ground), systemic protections (evaluating the effectiveness of systemic protections for disability rights e.g. laws, policies and programs) and societal attitudes (examining the coverage and nature of media depictions of people with disabilities). The Bolivia project has focussed on monitoring in the first two focus areas – individual experiences and systemic measures. The monitoring and training tools and methods used in this project have also been applied in DRPI-sponsored projects in several other countries, including Australia, Cameroon, Canada, India, Kenya, and Sweden. The DRPI project is a direct outcome of the recommendations formulated at an international conference on Human Rights and Disability that was held in Almåsa, Sweden, in 2000, with the participation of representatives from all the main international disability organizations, as well as human rights experts and United Nations representatives. More information about the activities of DRPI can be found on the project website.

In Bolivia, the project was led by the Confederación Boliviana de la Persona con Discapacidad (COBOPDI), with the support of the Santa Cruz Federation of Persons with Disabilities (FECRUPDI) and the Departmental Federation of Persons with Disabilities (La Paz) (FEDEPDI).

We hope that in this report on the human rights situation of people with disabilities in Bolivia will provide all of the organizations for people with disabilities in Bolivia (COBOPDI, CONALPEDI, CODEPEDI, etc.) with the technical and scientific information that they need to support their advocacy work. It is also anticipated that this document will inform national authorities about the development of methodologies and tools for the promotion and protection of human rights and human dignity, and generate a debate and invite reflection upon these issues.

We also hope that this report can form a foundation for strengthening the engagement of the disability rights movement, allies and like-minded development partners. The information and ideas presented in this document will form part of a growing collection of information resources.

The first part of this report contains general notes on the social, economic and political situation of Bolivia, as well as information on the movement of the people with disabilities in the country, an analysis of the legislation and existing norms applying to the people with disabilities.

The second part contains statistical data and analysis of the individual experiences obtained from the interviews with people with disabilities in La Paz and Santa Cruz.

Chapter 1: Social, Economic and Political Situation in Bolivia

Bolivia (Quechua: Bulibiya Suyu, Aymara: Bulibiya, Buliwya, official name: Republic of Bolivia) is an independent and sovereign country located in the central western part of South

The official capital and site of the judicial branch is Sucre (according to the Political Constitution of the State in place as of January, 2009), and the site of government (executive and legislative branches) is La Paz.

It borders with Brazil to the north and to the east, with Paraguay and Argentina to the south, and with Chile and Peru to the west. Along with Paraguay, it is one of the two land-locked countries in South America. It is the eighth largest country on the American continent and the twentyseventh world-wide.

Bolivia is a multicultural country with extensive natural and archaeological wealth. Among others, the Tiahuanacu culture stands out, which developed in what today is known as the western region of the country, and whose advanced knowledge in a variety of subjects was later inherited by the Incan Empire. Less well known are the archaeological remains in the tropical eastern region of Bolivia, in the Moxos and Baures plains in the department of Beni. Here the Hydraulic Culture of the Lomas, the largest in the Americas, was developed.


According to the National Institute of Statistics in Bolivia, the population in the last census in 2001 was 8,274,325, of which 4,123,850 were men, and 4,150,475 were women, yet by 2007 the population had grown to approximately 9,827,522 inhabitants.

In the last 50 years, the Bolivian population has tripled, with an annual growth rate of 2.25%. The growth rate for the first intercensal period was 2.05% from 1976-1992, while the annual growth rate at the last census in 2001 was 2.74%.

Most of the population (70%) is concentrated in the departments of La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. In the altiplano region, most of the population is concentrated in the departments of La Paz and Potosí. In the valleys, the departments of Cochabamba and Chuquisaca have the largest population, and in the lowlands the departments of Santa Cruz and Beni are the most populated. The national population density is 8.49.

Bolivia has a young population. According to the 2001 census: 54% of inhabitants are between 15 and 59 years of age, 39% are less than 15 years of age, and the rest are under 5 years of age. Almost 60% of the population is under 25 years of age, adolescents (10-20 years of age) represent 23% of the population, and women of reproductive age (15-49 years of age) represent almost half of all women in the country.

The exact number of people with disabilities in Bolivia is unknown. However, studies by the United Nations offer the conservative estimate that at least 10% of the population of all countries have a disability. This means that at least 827,432 inhabitants of Bolivia have a disability. Life expectancy is between 62 and 67 years of age for men and women, respectively.


The official languages are stated in the new Political Constitution of the State: Article 5.

  1. The official languages of Bolivia are Spanish and all the languages of the originary indigenous peasant nations and peoples, which are Aymara, Araona, Baure, Bésiro, Canichana, Cavineño, Cayubaba, Chácobo, Chimán, Ese ejja, Guaraní, Guarasu’we, Guarayu, Itonama, Leco, Machajuyai-kallawaya, Machineri, Maropa, Mojeño-trinitario, Mojeño-ignaciano, Moré, Mosetén, Movima, Pacawara, Puquina, Quechua, Sirionó, Tacana, Tapiete, Toromona, Uruchipaya, Weemhayek, Yaminawa, Yuki, Yuracaré and Zamuco.
  2. The plurinational government and the departmental governments must use at least two official languages. One of them must be Spanish, and the other will be chosen taking into account the use, convenience, circumstances, needs, and preferences of the population as a whole or of the territory in question. The other autonomous governments must use their own languages in their territory, and one of them must be Spanish.


The Bolivian economy is based mainly on the mining, petroleum, natural gas, agriculture, cement and textile industries.

Most of the mineral resources are concentrated in the western departments such as Potosí, La Paz and Oruro, where there is tin (4th largest producer in the world), silver (11th largest), copper, tungsten, antimony, zinc, etc.

The most important deposits of iron (Mutún17) and gold (San Simon Hill) are found in the eastern tropical areas, mainly in the departments of Santa Cruz and Beni. There are also important precious stones, such as Bolivianita, Ayoreita, Anahita, Amethyst and Millennium, which come from the tropical lowlands.

Hydrocarbon production is concentrated in the Andean foothills mainly in the departments of Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca and Tarija.

Petroleum production (about 11.25 million barrels in the first nine months of 2006) supplies the national market, while natural gas is exported to Brazil and Argentina, given the small and inefficient system of residential and industrial distribution of gas in Bolivia. In the first nine months of 2006, 357.9 million cubic feet of natural gas per day were produced.

Agricultural and cattle production has become more important over the last several decades, mainly in the eastern tropical regions.

Andean agriculture is fundamentally based on domestic consumption. The Andean regions mainly produce corn, wheat, potatoes and other root crops, barley, quinoa, vegetables, etc. Cattle breeding is limited; the breeding of native livestock is more important, consisting of camelids such as alpaca. The wool from the alpaca, which is both very fine and very resistant, is used in textile production.

Agricultural growth is taking place in the eastern tropical regions in Bolivia. Currently, the agricultural industry is of great importance in the national economy. The following crops are grown for domestic consumption as well as for export: rice, soybean (the 8th largest producer in the world, with 1.7 million tons), sorghum, sugar cane, sunflower, tobacco, corn, yucca, cacao, coffee, coca leaves, etc.

Chapter 2: Legislation for the Protection, Promotion and Enforcement of Disability Rights in Bolivia

Official discrimination against people with disabilities is still a reality, in the workplace, in schools, in access to the healthcare system and in access to government services. Societal discrimination against people with disabilities has confined many of them to their homes from an early age, thereby limiting their integration into society.

The People with Disabilities Act (Law 1678) allows tax-free imports for orthopaedic devices, stipulates a 50% discount on public transport and promotes the teaching of sign language and Braille.

This study has also found that the law itself is discriminatory against people with disabilities in certain cases. Disability has not become a subject of public interest, nor has the government prioritized its inclusion in the governmental agenda or in that of civil society. Policy-makers, authorities, government officials, and social actors in general are unaware of improvements in relevant laws and regulations; in other words, the regulations are not enforced at all. Generally, it has been treated as a private issue, confined to inner family spaces. It has not moved beyond a philanthropic approach that has been in effect for decades, based on notions of compassion and welfare. Actions in favour of people with disabilities have been considered part of the work of public charity, Christian solidarity and voluntary efforts, resources which are insufficient and do not provide solutions that address the magnitude of the problem, limiting it instead to the private and clandestine margins of society.

In addition to the National Council for People with Disabilities (C.O.N.A.L.P.E.D.I.)—whose mission is to promote and foster joint operations with different sectors of society for the adherence to and enforcement of Supreme Decree Number 24807, based on respect for differences, tolerance and non-discrimination—there are other organizations with a disability rights mandate established by the Bolivian government, such as the Departmental Committee for People with Disabilities, the Christian Fraternity for the Sick and Disabled, the Federation of Integrated Wheelchair Sports, The Bolivian Federation for the Deaf, The Bolivian Association of Parents of Children and Adolescents with Mental Handicaps, and the Bolivian Federation for the Blind and Deaf. All of these organizations are part of the Bolivian Confederation of Persons with Disabilities.

The results of this study indicate that the Committee has included disability as one of the human rights concerns covered by its mandate; however, some organizations are inactive in most of the country. Most public buildings and private companies are not wheelchair accessible, and, as the Permanent Assembly acknowledges, “in general, special services and infrastructure to facilitate the circulation of people with disabilities do not exist. The lack of resources makes their full implementation impossible.”

The study also showed that in Bolivia, people with disabilities live in constant exclusion and inequality, as victims of discrimination in different processes of socio-economic development in the country, violating their fundamental human rights on a daily basis in their social settings, in their families and in society as a whole. This situation is further aggravated by the poverty in which the majority of people with disabilities live.

The extensive national and international legislation that protects this important group has, for many years, both on paper and in practice, been completely insufficient.

2.1 National Legal Framework of Disability Rights

2.1.1 Legislative Framework

Legislation includes the regulations established in Law 1678, the international conventions and agreements ratified by the Bolivian government, and regulations that organize the structure and the functioning of the country. Especially relevant as an ethical, philosophical and guiding framework for the Plan, are the 1993 United Nations Standard Rules, the Salamanca Declaration issued at the Global Conference on Special Needs: Access and Quality, the United Nations Convention and the Spanish-American declaration of the Year of the Disabled.

The socio-economic situation, system of government and Bolivian society in general demand an active role of the state with respect to disability, as well as the active participation of civil society, representative disability organizations, N.G.O.s, social organizations, volunteer groups, the private sector and social and political actors more broadly.

Regionally, there is a struggle, including social protests and demonstrations, to develop policies and strategies so that both state actors and social actors in general can responsibly contribute to the development of a more inclusive, fair and humane society: a society that respects and protects the rights of people with disabilities, their ethnicity and their gender, thus broadening the opportunities available to people with disabilities in a context of fairness in all aspects of economic, cultural, social and political life, allowing them to develop their abilities, enjoy greater social protection, and broaden and strengthen their social participation and inclusion. There is no constitutional definition of disability in Bolivian law; however, there is a legal definition in the framework of the People with Disabilities Act (Law 1678), which defines disability as the following: Any restriction or lack, resulting from an impairment, of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.

The definition of Law 1678 is sufficiently broad to include those people who would not traditionally be considered to have a disability, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities.

The Bolivian constitution includes statutes that guarantee human rights and freedoms for its citizens, rights which apply to all citizens. People with disabilities are expected to enjoy these rights equally with the rest of society.

Article 71 of the constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of disability, yet the majority of people with disabilities in Bolivia experience inequality, exclusion and poverty. They are victims of discrimination in different spheres of social life, they do not have equal access to opportunities, and they are subject to a permanent violation of their rights by cultural constructs based on internalization, depersonalization and the denial of others and of their dignity. Cultural constructs are the main factor affecting disability rights. The lack of information and knowledge leads to stereotypes, prejudices, beliefs based on a social system that values “perfection”, and “beauty”, under highly exclusive conventional parameters.

Cultural constructs have created segregated spaces for the development of people with disabilities, and they have determined a priori a limited range of opportunities for people with disabilities that, using parameters not intended for people with disabilities, supposedly cover their basic needs. Opportunities for people without disabilities are prioritized, to the extent that it seems that they are the only people that have a place in society. People with disabilities are condemned to move through spaces that are on the margins of normalcy and daily life.

Law 1678 includes statutes that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in several sectors, including education, the workplace, health, and the provision of services, both in the public and private sectors. Article 7 is related to health matters, article 8 is about education, article 9 prohibits discrimination in the workplace, and article 10 prohibits discrimination in access to buildings and other installations. Articles 11, 12, and 13 address indirect discrimination in such spheres as television programs and telephone and postal services.

The current challenge is to implement the law in the interest of accelerating processes of equality and the equalization of opportunities for this important group.

2.1.2 Governmental Organizations Working with People with Disabilities

The National Council for People with Disabilities, called C.O.N.A.L.P.E.D.I., was formed by virtue of Chapter VI of Law 1678. Article 19 establishes the specific functions of the Council, which are to issue orders enforcing Law 1678 and to supervise their suitable application, in coordination with state, private and mixed organizations. It also seeks to improve the application of the Global Action for People with Disabilities, standard rules for the equalization of opportunities and other regulations designed to encourage the integration of people with disabilities into society. The Council also has the mandate to develop its operational regulations and the organization of the executive, for the express approval of the Ministry of Human Development by ministerial resolution.

In its mandate to guarantee that the rights and privileges of people with disabilities are upheld as established by law, the Council must coordinate with other institutions that directly bring together and work with people with disabilities.

In addition to the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, there are other bodies that have been established by the government through diverse laws.

The Departmental Committee for Persons with Disabilities has as its objective to promote and raise awareness about Law 1678 and other legislation related to the fundamental rights of people with disabilities, and to establish norms and procedures for the enforcement of this law.

This work is carried out in seminars, conferences, workshops, etc., which have not been sufficient to reach all the people that benefit from the law nor those upon whom it confers obligations with respect to the protection and support of people with disabilities.

2.1.3 Poverty and Disability

There is no labour law that takes into account the labour needs of people with disabilities, although the General Labour Law regulates labour laws for all Bolivian citizens to an extent. The law could be interpreted to contribute to the economic marginalization of people with disabilities, as it does not address the employment of people with disabilities, which is an issue that demands special attention. The law does not recognize that people with disabilities face discrimination when they look for work and that they have limited opportunities in comparison with people without disabilities. The law does not include any statutes that impose obligations on employers to employ people with disabilities, thus abandoning them to the liberalization of the job market, which is strongly biased against them.

Poverty is the most extreme form of social exclusion and is directly related to unemployment, labour instability, low labour costs, precarious and informal jobs and low wages. In the country there is limited capacity for job creation. Large enterprises generate 8.7% of employment, compared to the small and medium-sized companies which contribute 83%, the majority of which are in the informal sector, demonstrating the structural limitations for generating stable employment.

In addition to the limitations of the labour market, with an unemployment rate of 13.9% and with a forced trend towards self-employment and under-employment, employers and workers also have prejudices, stereotypes and discriminatory practices with respect to people with disabilities.

Working constitutes a right because it allows people to generate income in order to access goods and services for personal and family subsistence and it permits a life with dignity. It generates the conditions for normal social engagement, the development of human potential and personal autonomy and allows one to contribute to society. The cultural meanings of work and the material and personal outcomes of labour insertion are of even greater importance for people with disabilities, because it channels their creative contributions, of economic and social utility, and also allows their social inclusion.

Supreme Decree 27477 regulates and protects the incorporation, advancement and labour stability of people with disabilities, establishing their priority employment status and stating that of all their staff, public institutions must hire an average of 4% of workers with disabilities, and they must create the conditions for these workers to perform their tasks.

Some factors that limit labour insertion are:

  • A limited formal labour market that is covered by labour legislation.
  • The largest contribution to job creation comes from the family and micro-enterprise sector, generally in the informal sector.
  • The lack of ongoing training and job-entrance programs, resulting in the insufficient development of labour skills for people with disabilities.
  • The stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes held by employers and workers.
  • Limited family support for people with disabilities to encourage their inclusion in the labour market.
  • The perceptions of people with disabilities, their immediate families and their social environment.

Current economic conditions have caused an increasing deterioration in the labour market, including the widespread growth of precarious jobs, both in the formal and informal sectors, with labour conditions that do not meet the norms of industrial and occupational safety, for children, adolescents and adults. These working conditions thus put both health and job security at risk.

There are not many financial sanctions or possible criminal charges (Article 26) for instances in which these laws are not enforced. To date, there have not been any cases brought to court under this law.


“States must recognize the global importance of providing access as a component of achieving equal opportunities in all spheres of society. For people with disabilities of any type, countries must:

  1. Establish plans of action to make the physical environment accessible.
  2. Adopt measures to guarantee access to information and communication.” (Article 5. Standard Rules. U.N.)

The accessibility of public spaces is an essential characteristic of the built physical environment that makes transit through and social use of such spaces possible, allowing people with disabilities to participate in the social, cultural, educational, economic and political activities for which such public spaces were constructed.

Accessibility varies according to the type of disability, with different requirements for physical, auditory and visual accessibility. The state of technological development of the country is limited; the few initiatives in the field have tended to provide technical help for physical disabilities, including a wheelchair factory and a few small prosthetic companies.

Poverty invites the common alternative of donations, where the systems of distribution are not the most effective, and the lack of a donation policy and inter-institutional coordination lead to these being managed within a welfare framework, with mechanisms that exclude people with real needs, creating negative effects and disincentives for national industry.

On the other hand, current societal dynamics demand transit as a service and a basic necessity, which is not designed to meet the basic needs of persons with disabilities. Vehicles, traffic regulations, urban design, and local culture make transit difficult for persons with disabilities, who have great difficulties getting to their places of work, education and health care, and in carrying out their basic social activities. Vehicles are ill-adapted and make the regular use of transportation difficult, in addition to the insensitivity of public transit drivers who refuse to transport persons with disabilities, putting them in difficult situations and exposing them to negative treatment. The challenges vary according to the type of disability, and it is worse for children and the elderly.

With the development of the information and knowledge society, barriers grow and there is a risk of even greater exclusion based on the dual condition of disability, which already puts one at a disadvantage, and the underdevelopment and poverty of the country, which makes accessing information and knowledge very difficult. Information and knowledge technologies are essential in the current context. They are an important means with which to reduce the gaps in communication, information and knowledge, and they can contribute to the elimination of social barriers. People with physical, hearing or intellectual disabilities have found that computers provide opportunities to learn, work, and be part of society. These information systems are not accessible for people living in poverty conditions, but mechanisms could be created to facilitate access for men and women with disabilities.

The National Policy Project on persons with disabilities indicates that persons with disabilities establish a legislative framework with which access problems will be addressed. Article 5 of the project states that it is equally important to recognize what constitutes access problems and to achieve equal opportunities in all spheres of society, including:

  • Environment (for example, buildings and construction pose difficulties for physical access to public buildings).
  • Communication (for example, electronic and print communications are generally inaccessible for people with visual, hearing or intellectual disabilities).
  • Social (for example, cultural attitudes and practices rooted in the beliefs, taboos, rites of passage or religion create almost unsurpassable barriers for the participation of people with disabilities in social life and cultural activities).
  • Economic (for example, barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from fully participating in employment, commerce and access to loans; many people with disabilities live in extreme poverty.)

The legislative framework of Law 1678 establishes a series of conditions related to access issues for persons with disabilities in Bolivia, including the following:

Chapter III of Law 1678—The Rights and Privileges of Persons with Disabilities—addresses issues of disability in a number of sections. However, the most efficient way to implement the legislation is to address access issues, the statutes that are outlined along with the sections with notes on the statutes and the structures where they must be applied.

In relation to employment, Article 9(d) of Law 1678 grants, in coordination with departmental labour boards, priority attention to all labour problems of people with disabilities, with the responsibility to apply financial sanctions against those who discriminate against people with disabilities in matters of employment.

Article 13 establishes as a priority the elimination of physical barriers in new urban and architectural constructions and the modification of existing ones, partially or wholly replacing the elements necessary to create conditions of access for persons with disabilities.

With respect to access and mobility, Article 13 states that persons with disabilities have the right to a barrier-free environment such that they can access buildings, highways and other social services, and the support services and other equipment necessary to promote their mobility. Article 13 (a) the elimination of urban, physical barriers on streets and in public places, (b) the elimination of architectural barriers in both public and private buildings used by the public, (c) the priorities and time frame for adjustments required by this article with respect to urban barriers and buildings of public use will be determined in accordance with regulations outlined by the corresponding volunteer committee, within six months of enacting the law.

In addition, Article 14 (a) promotes the elimination of architectural barriers in public transport by land, air, and water of short, medium, and long distances, and the use of private means of transportation for people with disabilities. Article 14 (b) establishes that people with disabilities have the right to circulate freely and to have access to parking, and (c) encourages land, air, lake and river transport companies, whether they are public, private or mixed, to give discounts of 50% to people with severe disabilities who require an escort, when their trips are interdepartmental or inter-provincial.

With respect to communication, people with disabilities face communication barriers in terms of the amount of information they can access and their communication with other people without disabilities.

According to Article 5 of the standard rules of Law 1678, people with disabilities and when applicable, their families and advocates, must at all stages have access to complete information about their diagnosis, their rights, and available services and programs. This information must be presented in an accessible form for people with disabilities.

According to the International Convention on Human Rights, countries should develop strategies so that information and documentation services are accessible to different groups of people with disabilities. With the objective of providing access to information and written documentation for people with visual disabilities, Braille, taped recordings, material with large print and other appropriate technologies should be used. Similarly, appropriate technologies must be used to give access to oral information for people with hearing disabilities or with challenges in comprehension.

Incentives under Law 1678

Article 4 (j): To establish the coordination of private enterprises, chamber of industry, chamber of commerce, exporters and small industry, in order to place people with disabilities in different workplaces, offering special incentives for hiring people with disabilities (diplomas, plaques, etc) granted once a year in a special ceremony. Similarly, the Article promotes the creation of microenterprises by people with disabilities, with the intention that they will employ other people with disabilities.

Article 4 (k): To promote and encourage the free importation of auxiliary equipment designed for people with disabilities and to negotiate their exemption from customs duties, according to Article 22, providing they are not for-profit organizations. Also, to evaluate applications for duty exemption.

Article 4 (l): To coordinate with banking entities, second-tier banks and related entities to assist in granting loans to people with disabilities.

Article 4 (p): To create a bank of orthotics and prosthetics, with equipment for different disabilities, offering the material at subsidized rates following an evaluation of economic conditions carried out by social workers. Also, to coordinate with national and international organizations, by means of conventions, to provide incentive for and coordinate research into the use of local natural resources for the manufacturing of equipment and support services for different disabilities, obtaining and disbursing funds for this purpose, and for the creation and strengthening of national manufacturers dedicated to making this type of equipment, supportive material, orthotics and prosthetics, preferentially hiring people with disabilities for this purpose.

54% Literate, 46% Illiterate
Literacy rate among people with disabilities over 5 years of age in Bolivia

States should recognize the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities, in integrated settings. They should ensure that the education of persons with disabilities is an integral part of the educational system. (Rule 6. Education: Standard Rules, United Nations, 1993).

“[R]egular schools with [an] inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all (U.N.E.S.C.O. Salamanca Declaration and Framework for Action, 1994.)

The Bolivian education system does not provide equal education based on the respect and appreciation of children, adolescents and adults that allows their development in daily life. In addition to being a discriminatory system in several areas such as gender, ethnicity, and class, there is discrimination based on disability. Schools continue to discriminate against people with disabilities with segregationist practices, resulting in systematic isolation, which is reproduced in all spheres of life, causing different degrees of social exclusion.

There are regular schools that admit students with disabilities; however, this access is not accompanied by suitable learning environments for special needs, both because teaching staff are not trained for this type of task, and because of the widespread existence of stereotypes and prejudices in the teaching community. In effect, the educational system denies the special education needs of people with disabilities in its conception, structure, organization and management, causing academic exclusion, which is exacerbated by gender and ethnicity.

There is no data about how many children with disabilities are excluded from the educational system in the country. At the international level, it is estimated that close to 78% of the school population is excluded, due to several factors related to the availability of educational programs and their accessibility, as well as to the socio-cultural conditions of the families and their social settings.

In this complex educational context, special education has been addressed by educational policy, but with marginal attention within the system. The inclusive approach to education has not been institutionalized; although the Educational Reform Act takes it into account, educational policies that would make it viable have not been implemented. Regular school does not include special education, nor inclusive education, and is not trained to meet students’ needs based on a model of “child-centred education”, with educational spaces allowing children and youth with disabilities to develop alongside their peers, independently of their difficulties and differences, as the Conference recommended.

The first available services in Bolivia have been the public centres and institutes in each capital city, which have problems of coverage, quality, and educational achievement. Though they have addressed some issues, they do not address the different degrees of disability, and in practice, their approaches have consolidated institutionalization, with the search for “refuge”, creating a separation of education from reality and from daily family, neighbourhood and community life. Another feature is their shortcomings with respect to the quality of their services and their scarce resources, which limit the possibilities of education alongside peers and reproduce segregation in education.

Attention to disability in the educational system has been limited by the lack of specialized training. In the training of teachers and professionals, training in special education and disability is only beginning to be addressed in different centres of higher education such as the Superior Normal Institutes, and it is completely absent at the university level.

Article 8 of Supreme Decree 24807 of Law 1678 proposes:

(a) To establish strategies and norms to strengthen special education through formal and alternative education, fostering a culture of dignity and respect for the human, political and social rights of persons with disabilities.

(b) To promote the integration of children, adolescents and adults with special education needs in different levels of formal education, with equal conditions and opportunities with others, according to the principles of democratization, normalization and integration, fostering complete human development, through respect for differences, individual diversity and principles of equity, creating educational pedagogies and actions for the research, design, curricular modifications and granting of suitable means and tools.

(g) To promote the integral development of students with special education needs in the formal sphere of education according to the Educational Reform Act, including curricular adaptations. Similarly, to promote the design, development and renewal of teaching material for the development of educational processes.


Health services are essential in caring for people with disabilities with respect to prevention, treatment, habilitation and rehabilitation. Disability has not been thoroughly addressed, and its care has been limited to clinical treatment, which is carried out with severe limitations due to technical and technological weaknesses and a lack of specialization.

The lack of programs for health promotion and prevention is common. Disability has generally been understood as a health problem, but not as a problem of social responsibility or a result of preventable causes, for which timely intervention could act to reduce impairments and disabilities. Currently, there are gaps in the information available to the population and to parents faced with situations of impairment; there is a lack of early diagnoses, there is a lack of integral newborn care; and there are prenatal risks and deficient public services that lead to disabilities.

Poverty is directly related to the living conditions and health of the population. The poor are most susceptible to severe malnutrition, severely malnourished children are at high risk for blindness because of vitamin A deficiencies, and at risk for complications of the motor, nervous and intellectual systems. According to the National Institute of Statistics, there are 18,995 blind people, 5,815 with multiple disabilities, and 1,200 people are deaf and blind—numbers that may be underestimated.

The W.H.O. calculates that 10% of the Bolivian population has some type of disability.

The decrease in public spending and the tax cut for hydrocarbons has limited access to health services and has notably diminished their quality. In general, the healthcare system does not have the resources needed for integral prevention, care and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities.

The decentralization of healthcare services and their municipal provision, in contexts of decreased public spending and institutional weakness, creates difficulties for the economic sustainability of secondary and tertiary care, which are most needed in caring for people with disabilities.

Health services have lost their universality and are difficult for the rural population to access, with long-standing asymmetries in services. There is a larger concentration in the urban core and almost no availability in rural areas, thus very few people use the urban services.

Some factors associated with inadequate services and their low quality include:

  • There is not an integrated approach to the care of people with disabilities.
  • Institutional availability continues to be insufficient and deficient.
  • Human resources do not have up-to-date and specialized knowledge.
  • Health workers have stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes.
  • Infrastructure, equipment and supplies are insufficient and inaccessible.
  • Medical and paramedic staff have limited training on the physical treatment of injured patients. Ignorance, along with cases of negligence, have been decisive factors in causing disabilities.

Furthermore, features of modern society have increased risks, such as environmental contamination and traffic accidents, which produce injuries of a different type, provoking disability. According to the W.H.O., in 2000, traffic accidents were the cause of 2.8% of deaths and disabilities in the world, and according to their projections for 2020, they may become the third largest cause of death and disability.

Other factors also stand out, such as domestic violence, social violence, and domestic accidents, which have all increased, though data is not available to measure the changes. It is important to point out that people with disabilities in Bolivia do not have complete health insurance that would cover all their rehabilitation needs. There is basic health insurance that covers all Bolivian citizens until they are 18 years of age, which only includes primary care, some laboratories, and nothing else.

Percentage of people with disabilities that are poor by type of disability:
  • Mobility: 38.5%
  • Hearing / Speech: 22.0%
  • Intellectual: 18.2%
  • Visual: 11.3%
  • Other: 9.3%
  • Unspecified: 0.7%
Vivir Creciendo: An Alternative in Cochabamba

Vivir Creciendo (Live and Grow) is a program of the Univalle University Hospital, which started on October 1st, 2005. The Univalle Hospital centralized the out-patient reconditioning and rehabilitation in just one program, Vivir Creciendo, in which objectives are created, criteria are coordinated, only one file with medical records is used, and, above all, quality and caring services are provided for the benefit of patients.

The W.H.O. reports that 4.5% to 10% of the world population have some sort of disability, with 80% found in rural areas and the peripheral zones of urban areas. Physical, visual and hearing impairment are the three most frequent causes of disability, with 36%, 28% and 16% respectively in some countries (Nelson 2004, 17th edition).

These alarming and largely unknown figures further strengthen the social work that Univalle Hospital is carrying out. Because it is a tertiary-level centre that teaches and carries out research, and has the most specialities, infrastructure and cutting-edge equipment, they saw the need to integrate the Vivir Creciendo program into their services for the centralized and multidisciplinary rehabilitation of people with disabilities.

Chapter 3: The Status of People with Disabilities in Bolivia


A pie chart showing 65% of people with disabilities living in urban areas and 35% in rural areas.
People with disabilities by region

Due to the high population growth rate in Bolivia in recent years, the number of people with disabilities has increased. According to membership data of the Departmental Committees for People with Disabilities, there are approximately 30,000 people with disabilities, with a large concentration (66%) living in the capital cities. Due to the higher level of poverty found in rural areas, these people have been forced to immigrate to urban centres in search of a better life.

In Bolivia, people with disabilities are affiliated with different organizations, including: the Christian Fraternity for the Sick and Disabled; the Federation of Integrated Wheelchair Sports, the Bolivian Federation for the Deaf; the Bolivian Association of Parents of Children and Adolescents with Mental Disabilities and the Bolivian Federation for the Deaf and Blind. All of these organizations are grouped under the umbrella organization, the Bolivian Confederation of Persons with Disabilities.

3.1 Current Situation

Currently, according to surveys conducted by the I.N.E. (National Institute of Statistics) and the U.N.D.P. (United Nations Development Program), 63% of people with disabilities have limited resources and are categorized as poor, the majority of whom do not have access to housing, education or health services. Sixty six percent are unemployed or hold informal jobs (selling jams, telephone cards, etc.), while only 35% are employed, with very few earning above the national minimum wage (577 Bs).

A pie chart showing that 56% of people with disabilities are male and 44% are female.
People with disabilities by sex

The same studies also show that 56% of people with disabilities are men and 44% are women, which is another limiting factor for family incomes, since it is males who bring in income and are better paid than women.

In terms of access to education and professional training, approximately 43% of people with disabilities are illiterate; that is, they are unable to read or write, or have very limited skills.

Of the total number of interviewees in the study, only 43% had finished elementary school and a mere 14% had had access to professional training at a college or university level. In the majority of cases, this lack of access to technical or professional training is due to the limited financial resources of the family. Others come from rural areas and did not have access to primary-level education as children, and a smaller yet significant percentage did not have access to higher education due to barrier issues; most universities, colleges and technical schools have numerous floors and flights of stairs, and many lack special access routes for people with physical disabilities.

3.2 Organizations Working with People with Disabilities

a) C.O.B.O.P.D.I. – (Bolivian Confederation of Persons with Disabilities).

C.O.B.O.P.D.I. is a representative, non-profit civil society advocacy organization, and with legal status, number 372/96. Its affiliate members are the nine departmental federations, and national institutes and organizations that are dedicated to rehabilitation, habilitation and the active inclusion of people with disabilities in society. They include:

  • A.B.O.P.A.N.E.: Bolivian Association of Parents and Friends of Persons with Mental Disabilities.
  • F.E.N.A.C.I.E.B.O.: National Bolivian Federation for the Blind
  • F.E.B.O.S.: Bolivian Federation for the Deaf
  • F.R.A.T.E.R.: Christian Fraternity of Persons with Disabilities
  • F.E.B.O..P.S.O.C.I.: Bolivian Federation for the Deaf and Blind
  • A.S.P.A.N.I.M.I.S.: Parents’ Association of Children with Multiple Disabilities

Across its various federations and associations, C.O.B.O.P.D.I. has a membership of between 20,000 and 25,000 people with disabilities, of which 65% are active members.

The confederation was founded on October 8, 1989, in Viacha (La Paz), Bolivia, legal status, Number 372. Since then, six national conferences have taken place, in which the governing C.O.B.O.P.D.I. Executive Boards have been elected.

The organization emerged out of a need for an institution specializing in human rights claims for people with physical disabilities.

C.O.B.O.P.D.I. was instrumental in getting Law 1678 passed on November 15, 1995, and its Supreme Decree 24807 on August 4, 1997, as a result of the radical actions (marches, hunger strikes, blockades) presented to the executive and legislative powers.

C.O.B.O.P.D.I.’s vision is to be a representative organization of citizens with disabilities, setting the example and as the main actors in the process of building an inclusive society with social justice and democratic equity.

Its mandate is to ensure the enforcement of human rights for citizens with disabilities in Bolivia, so that they may have access to equal opportunities and attain full social integration.

C.O.B.O.P.D.I. bases its action on the specifications set out by the World Programme of Action, Standard Rules, international agreements, and current laws for people with disabilities on impairments, disabilities, handicaps, prevention, rehabilitation and habilitation.

  1. To arrange actions to help its member organizations attain their goals.
  2. To coordinate with government at the national, departmental and provincial levels.
  3. To coordinate with other organizations working on disability issues, including N.G.O.s, foundations, national and international teams and volunteers, to address the needs and demands of people with disabilities.
  4. To organize services that strengthen institutions and inter-institutional links, coordinating between C.O.B.O.P.D.I. – affiliated institutions and organizations that provide professional training for their members in the areas of leadership, management training and general orientation.
  5. To hold meetings with government officials and other authorities with the goal of placing disability issues on the agenda and facilitating their application with respect to legal matters, citizen participation, political decision-making and the electoral process.
  6. To carry out inter-institutional agreements with public and private organizations in civil society, and national and international institutions, in order to achieve C.O.B.O.P.D.I. objectives.
  7. To demand the observance of laws and norms related to disability rights.
  8. To coordinate activities with organizations and institutions of parents, teachers and colleagues of people with disabilities.
  9. To coordinate and promote action with C.O.N.A.L.P.E.D.I.S., the C.O.D.E.P.E.D.I.s, departmental federations and national organizations.
  10. To participate in social movements by joining forces with citizens groups at every level in order to gain access to decision-making processes.

C.O.B.O.P.D.I. has its headquarters in the city of Santa Cruz and holds a permanent office there.

b) C.O.N.A.L.P.E.D.I.S. (National Committee of Persons with Disabilities)

The National Committee of Persons with Disabilities, which is the executive body of Law 1678, was established on October 15, 1996.

The Board of Directors includes:

  • a representative of the Ministry of Health;
  • a representative of the Ministry of Education;
  • a representative of the Ministry of Labour;
  • a representative of an N.G.O. working in the area of disability, and
  • four representatives of the Bolivian Confederation of People with Disabilities (C.O.B.O.P.D.I.).

From these eight people, one representative of C.O.B.O.P.D.I. is chosen to act as Executive Director, who then works at the permanent office jointly with a lawyer, an economist and a secretary.

It is a decentralized entity, whose representatives are delegated to work on five main policies. Some advances have already been made, such as:

  • Short-Term Insurance Agreement: the confederation signed an agreement with the Ministry of Labour for short-term insurance on September 29, 2004, which is currently pending due to the country’s internal problems and the coming change in government.
  • Complementary Hydrocarbons Tax (I.H.C.): In October 2004, the Lower Chamber approved the dedication of 2% of the Hydrocarbon Law funds—Co-participation Article 52, clause C—to the Bolivian Confederation of Persons with Disabilities for institutional strengthening and the fulfilment of objectives. Once the current political crisis in Bolivia is resolved, the executive will determine how this percentage will be distributed.
  • Human Rights: With respect to human rights issues, C.O.B.O.P.D.I. is working on developing a national legal strategy that would allow Bolivia to present itself to the international community as a state with public policy based on respect for and the protection and fulfilment of human rights. It would also establish and modify national and local human rights instances, with the objective of promoting the diversity of sources, approaches, methodologies, and institutions. In this context, human rights representatives are working with groups vulnerable to societal discrimination in order to create a protection law in which people with disabilities are taken into account.
  • Constituent Assembly: The process to participate in the Constituent Assembly began with the organization of the workshop “Equal Rights, Justice and Equity for People with Disabilities in the New Political Constitution of the State,” held in November 2004. Currently, C.O.N.A.L.P.E.D.I.S. is working so that two people with disabilities can present the proposal to the head of disabilities in the Constituent Assembly. The objective of the proposal is to build and/or design a Political Constitution of the State in which people with disabilities, who are currently discriminated against and excluded, will be included and recognized.
  • Inter-institutional Coordination: The Confederation has participated in several events organized by different institutions, with the purpose of strengthening actions in favour of people with disabilities:
    • Seminar workshop: Political Impact and Work in Networks, organized by the Y.A.N.A.P.A.S.I.N.A. project, Caritas Germany
    • Seminar workshop: National Plan for Equality and Equalization of Opportunities of People with Disabilities, organized by C.O.N.A.L.P.E.D.I.S., Ombudsperson.
    • Roundtable discussion: National Strategy on Human Rights, organized by C.O.B.O.P.D.I.C.O.N.A.L.P.E.D.I.S., Community of Human Rights.
    • Seminar workshop: National Strategy on Information and Communication Technologies for Development, organized by Telecommunications Commission, U.N.D.P. Bolivia, National Program TIC-Bolivia
c) C.O.D.E.P.E.D.I.S. (Departmental Committee of Persons with Disabilities)

C.O.D.E.P.E.D.I.S. is a departmental-level organization, whose objective is: “To improve the quality of life of people with disabilities in the department of Santa Cruz, using specialized municipal care units for people with disabilities. Strengthening of associations.”

As mentioned above, there are other institutions, associations, federations, and fraternities that bring together and work for the well-being of people with disabilities in each department; each one has its particular agenda and work plan.

Chapter 4: Monitoring Individual Human Rights Experiences

The first activity undertaken in the current study was to hold a 7-day training seminar in the Asturias Hotel in the city of Santa Cruz. The participants included 20 people with disabilities (16 monitors and 4 site coordinators); the president and secretary general of C.O.B.O.P.D.I.; the coordinator of N.U.R. University, and 2 English translators.

Special guests included the Omubudsperson, a representative of the National Congress Human Rights Commission, two representatives from Social Management (S.E.G.E.D.E.S.) from the departmental prefecture, and representatives from DRPI International.

The objective of the seminar was to present the “Monitoring The Personal Human Rights Experiences of People with Disabilities” project and to train the participants who would carry out the project in Bolivia.

Throughout the monitoring project, 117 interviews were conducted with people with a wide rage of disabilities. The interviews were recorded on cassette tape and subsequently 112 were transcribed (5 could not be transcribed due to problems with the sound and/or difficulties in understanding the Aymara language). 102 of the interviews were then coded: 65 from Santa Cruz and 37 from La Paz.

Simple random sampling was used due to the accessibility and participation of people with disabilities. There was an attempt to sample equally between the two departments. The field research yielded the following results.

4.1 Description of Field Research Sites (Locations of Interviews)

Of the two departments chosen as sites for the field research (Santa Cruz and La Paz), two major cities from each were selected.

1) Department of Santa Cruz de la Sierra

Santa Cruz is the largest department in Bolivia, with 2.4 million inhabitants (2005) and covering more than 370,000 km² (33.74% of the national territory). Located in the eastern part of Bolivia, it borders Beni to the north, Cochabamba to the west, Chuquisaca and the Republic of Paraguay to the south, and the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso del Sur to the east.

It is Bolivia’s most industrialized region and the main centre of national consumption; it has the highest per capita income, with a high rate of annual growth, mainly due to agricultural and forestry production.. It is also the most important region for hydrocarbon production. The capital city is Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Two of the 15 provinces that make up the department of Santa Cruz were selected as field research sites.

Province of Andrés Ibáñez

Andrés Ibáñez is the most important province in the department of Santa Cruz, because it is home to the city of Santa Cruz, capital of Andrés Ibáñez, and Bolivia’s economic engine. Some of the largest national and international companies have their headquarters in this city, and it is also host to many international conferences as well as a variety of festivals.

It is situated between the foothills of the Andes and the Rio Grande.

The province is divided into 5 municipalities and 18 districts:

  • Cotoca
  • Ayacucho
  • El Torno
  • La Guardia
  • Santa Cruz de la Sierra

The city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra is divided into neighbourhood units and neighbourhoods.

There are 8 concentric rings approximately 1 km apart from each other. It covers a total area of 38,800 hectares (388 km²) and belongs to the district of Palmar del Oratorio.


As capital of the country’s largest department, it has a well-developed infrastructure of public services and roads and an active commercial and business life. The main sectors driving the economy are hydrocarbons, forestry, agriculture and construction. According to recent data, almost 80% of national agricultural production is concentrated in Santa Cruz, which, in addition, contributes more than 35% to the G.N.P. It also has the largest airport in the country, which makes it an ideal city for fairs, international events and investments.

It is important to note that in Santa Cruz, the private sector drives development; there is considerable investment in construction (office buildings and homes), the commercial sector (big supermarket chains and shopping centres), health (state-of-the-art private clinics), fashion, national and international events, banking, agriculture, hotels and gastronomy (which are highly developed), as well as in the dozen or so private universities found in the city.

Province of Obispo Santistevan

Obispo Santistevan is a province in the department of Santa Cruz, founded on December 2, 1941. The name pays homage to the bishop José Belisario Santistevan Seoane (1843-1931), who was the driving force behind the construction of the Santa Cruz Cathedral and the first gay bishop.

Santistevan, together with Warnes, Sara and Ichilo, form part of the so-called “Bloc of integrated provinces in northern Santa Cruz.”

This province is well-known for its agricultural and livestock production, and is Bolivia’s largest food producer, with highly developed technology. The Guabira sugar mills in Montero and the U.N.A.G.R.O. sugar mills in Mineiros are found in this province, with large sugar cane plantations. There are also sawmills, rice paddies and cotton fields.

Municipalities and major towns
  • Montero – capital of Obispo Santistevan
  • Mineros – 51,356 inhabitants
  • Saavedra – 19,114 inhabitants

Montero is the capital of the province of Santistevan in the department of Santa Cruz. It is located in the heart of Bolivia’s agribusiness, 50 km from the departmental capital of Santa Cruz. With 90,837 inhabitants (2005), it is the largest provincial capital in the country.

Known for its sugar industry, the city is the agricultural and sugar cane centre, with the Guabirá sugar mill, which is the largest producer of sugar and alcohol in the country.

Montero was legally registered as a city by law on December 3, 1986.

With significant commerce and banking activity, the city is located at 17º20’ S and 63º23’ W at an altitude of 298 metres above sea level. It covers an area of approximately 19km². With a dry sub-humid climate, the average temperature is 24.5ºC. July is the coldest month of the year and December the warmest.

Montero has the highest population growth rate in the department of Santa Cruz.

As described, the two cities selected for field research in the department of Santa Cruz are the most important and have the largest populations due to their extensive economic activity.

2) Department of La Paz

Another of Bolivia’s nine departments is the department of La Paz, located in the northeastern part of the country, with a population of 2,812,607. It occupies 133,985 km2. Nuestra Señora de La Paz is its capital city, situated at an altitude of 3,640m, and is the site of the national government.

The department of La Paz was created by the Intendencia de La Paz de la Real Audiencia de Charcas by means of Supreme Decree on January 23, 1826. Having undergone many jurisdictional and territorial changes, it now covers an area of 133,985 km².

It borders the departments of Pando to the north, Oruruo to the south, Beni and Cochabamba to the east, and the countries of Chile and Peru to the west.

The department is divided into 20 provinces; the provinces in turn are divided into 80 townships, which are further divided into 438 districts.

La Paz is governed by the Prefect, which is the representative power of the executive and is in charge of enforcing laws, overseeing road maintenance, and the general welfare of the population. Next in the hierarchy is the governor (alcalde municipal), in charge of providing basic services to the cities and municipalities. The provinces are administered by the Sub-Prefect, and the districts are administered by the mayor (corregidor).

The city of La Paz

La Paz (officially Nuestra Señora de La Paz) is the capital of the department and the seat of the Bolivian government. In 2001, according to census data, the entire metropolitan area (including the city of El Alto) had a population of 1,552,156. Located at 3,650 meters above sea level, this metropolitan area is Bolivia’s largest and most populated.

La Paz is set in a deep canyon surrounded by the Andean mountains of high altitude, between the high Andean Plateau and the lower valleys.

The southern part (Zona Sur) has a similar geography, with lower hills and at a lower altitude than the rest of the urban area.

In the Andes mountain range to the east of the city looms the Illimani (6,465 metres above sea level), whose silhouette has been the emblem of the city since its foundation.

Administrative Organization

The municipality is divided into the following macro-districts: Centro, Cotahuma, Max Paredes, Periférica, San Antonio, Sur, Mallasa, Hampaturi and Zongo (the latter two being rural districts).

Main neighbourhoods and areas
  • Casco Viejo: This is the historical city centre. Today there are museums, hotels, stores, and important buildings, such as City Hall and the Central Bank of Bolivia.
  • Downtown: The neighbourhoods of San Jorge and Sopocachi form part of the downtown area. This is where the main stores, hotels and most embassies are located.
  • Sopocachi: Probably one of the oldest residential neighbourhoods, and located only 10 minutes from downtown, this old residential neighbourhood has managed to maintain its character despite urban development and growth.
  • San Pedro: Built around the “San Pedro Square” (officially Plaza Sucre), this neighbourhood is mainly residential although it does have numerous stores and small businesses, with printing houses being common in the area.
  • Miraflores: Miraflores is separated from the downtown by a large canyon and is connected by the Bridge of the Americas and two avenues. This is where La Paz’s main hospitals and universities are located, including the important U.M.S.A. Faculty of Medicine. Miraflores is also home to the Hernando Siles stadium (45,000 spectators).
  • Zona Norte: This area is mainly industrial, where the food industry plays an important role. The Cerveceria Boliviana Nacional beer company is located here.
  • Zona Sur: The Zona Sur sits at a lower altitude (2,800-3,200 metres above sea level) than the rest of the city. This is where the majority of La Paz’s residential neighbourhoods, like Calacoto, are found.

The department’s economy is based on wood exports from the northern part of the department, clothes manufacturing in the city of La Paz, and commerce.

City of El Alto

El Alto is located northeast of La Paz at 4,000 metres above sea level, on the Altiplano Plateau. It has a population of 827,239 (2006) and, together with La Paz, forms the largest urban centre in the country.

The Public University of El Alto, the international airport and the Bolivian Air Force are all found here. There is a considerable retail sector as well as hydrocarbon plants and factories, and it is the main site for mineral resource exports in the country. El Alto also has a symphony orchestra, as well as museums and other cultural institutions.

The city has mainly served as a settlement for immigrants from the rest of the country, especially those emigrating from rural areas in search of better economic opportunities in “the city”. As a result of this migration, it is a modern city of new, low-income housing.

El Alto was originally a satellite neighbourhood of La Paz, but as the population boomed, it received the ranking of “Provincial Section” on March 6, 1985 and finally that of “City” on September 26, 1986.

El Alto was the site of the Gas War of October 2003 that saw more than 70 deaths caused by police repression. It was this incident, ordered by then-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, that finally prompted his resignation on October 17 of the same year.

The main social movements in El Alto are F.E.J.U.V.E. (Federation of Neighbourhood Committees) and C.O.R. (Regional Labour Federation).

Main Neighborhoods

The most important areas are Ciudad Satélite (whose first residents were public servants), Villa Exaltacion, Villa Adela (whose first residents were military personnel) , 1ro de Mayo (whose first residents were factory workers), Villa Alemana, Villa Dolores, El Kenko, Alto Lima, Senkata, Nuevos Horizontes, Mercedario, Kollpani, Villa Ingavi, German Bush, Ballivián, and Rio Seco.


The inhabitants of El Alto make use of local resources, and due to the region’s climate, many adobe constructions can be found. It is a rapidly growing city with markets for food, hand-made clothing, used clothing, etc. The July 16 market and the La Ceja market are typical of the city, where one can buy anything from a rusty screw, to a new car, some land or a house. Unfortunately, in the La Ceja market there are also bars and brothels, heavy traffic, garbage and a high crime rate. These are the main urban issues facing the city of El Alto.

These areas were selected for field research mainly because together they make up the largest urban areas in the country, and as such they are home to a high percentage of people with disabilities.

4.2 Characteristics of Participants

Table 1: Number of Participants by Age
Not applicable Below 18 years 18-25 years 26-35 years 36-50 years Over 50 years
1 1 9 31 45 15

As shown in the graph above, the largest number of people with disabilities interviewed in this study were between 36 and 50 years old (44%), while 9% were less than 18. Of note, 15% were over 50 years old, the majority of which live alone or have been abandoned by their families.

Table 2: Number of Participants by Gender
Male Female
68 34

The largest number of people with disabilities interviewed in this study were male (67%), while 33% were female.

Table 3: Number of Participants by Region
La Paz El Alto Santa Cruz Obispo Santievan
18 19 33 32

Over 35 days, 37 interviews were conducted in the cities of La Paz and El Alto. In the city of Santa Cruz, 33 interviews were conducted in 43 days, and in the province of Obispo Santiestevan (Montero), 32 interviews were completed over 40 days. There were 4 teams at each site, working in pairs.

Table 4: Number of Participants by Employment
Not in the Labour Force In the Labour Force
35 67

In terms of employment, 34% of the interviewees were not working because either their disability impeded their ability to work, or because their disability prevented them from accessing the workplace. For 66% of interviewees, employment provided a source of income, although it is important to mention that most were working in informal jobs such as selling telephone cards, jams, etc.

Table 4: Number of Participants by Disability
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
72 15 12 1 2

Various studies show that the most common type of disability is physical disability. In this study, 72 people with mobility disabilities were interviewed, 15 with visual disabilities, 12 deaf or deafmute, and 3 with intellectual or mental disabilities.

Table 5: Number of Participants by Home Ownership
Unspecified Owned Rental Anticretico1 Ceded Belonging to family member Communal
1 17 29 7 16 30 2
Note #1
An anticrético is a contract to rent property whereby the renter pays the landlord a fixed sum at the start of the rental period in lieu of paying monthly rent. At the end of the rental period, the tenant receives the sum back, in full, from the landlord, giving him in effect rent-free living.

One of the greatest needs of people with disabilities in Bolivia is housing. The highest percentage of people with disabilities live with a family member or friend (29%) because their economic circumstances do not allow them to pay for basic services.

The other main category of people live in rented facilities (29 people), while 16 people with disabilities live as caretakers of other people homes that have been ceded to them.

4.3.2 Cross-Sectional Analysis

Below we present comparisons between human rights implications and participant attributes (sex, age, region, and type of disability).

Table 23: Access to Justice by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 0 0 0 2 2 0
Lack of autonomy 0 1 1 2 0 4 0
Lack of dignity 0 1 1 2 0 4 0
Dignity 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 0 0 2 5 3 8 2
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 0 1 5 8 4 10 8
Inclusion and accessibility 0 0 1 1 0 2 0
Lack of respect 0 1 2 2 2 6 1
Respect 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Table 24: Access to Justice by Type of Impairment
Experience Type of Impairment
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
Self-determination 2 0 0 0 0
Lack of autonomy 4 0 0 0 0
Lack of dignity 4 0 0 0 0
Dignity 0 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 10 0 0 0 0
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 11 4 3 0 0
Inclusion and accessibility 2 0 0 0 0
Lack of respect 6 0 1 0 0
Respect 0 0 0 0 0

The largest group of people that do not have access to justice is of males between 36 and 50 years of age, who report not feeling respected by authorities. There is also a significant percentage of people with physical disabilities that are excluded and not treated equally.

Table 25: Education by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 0 3 0 1 2 2
Lack of autonomy 0 2 6 1 0 5 4
Lack of dignity 0 1 9 2 0 7 5
Dignity 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Discrimination and inequality 0 1 9 2 0 7 5
Non-discrimination and equality 0 1 1 0 0 2 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 1 2 9 11 4 15 12
Inclusion and accessibility 0 1 6 3 1 6 5
Lack of respect 0 2 3 0 1 5 1
Respect 0 1 2 0 0 2 1
Table 26: Education by Type of Impairment
Experience Type of Impairment
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
Self-determination 3 0 0 1 0
Lack of autonomy 5 2 2 0 0
Lack of dignity 4 0 1 0 0
Dignity 0 1 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 10 2 0 0 0
Non-discrimination and equality 1 1 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 18 2 5 1 1
Inclusion and accessibility 7 2 1 1 0
Lack of respect 4 1 1 0 0
Respect 2 0 0 1 0

As is evident from the tables above, it is generally males who do not have access to education. As in the previous case, it is people with physical disabilities who have less access to the education system, whether it is formal or higher education.

Table 27: Information and Communication by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 0 0 1 0 1 0
Lack of autonomy 0 0 1 1 0 2 0
Lack of dignity 0 0 1 1 0 2 0
Dignity 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 0 0 5 9 3 10 7
Inclusion and accessibility 0 1 1 3 2 6 1
Lack of respect 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Respect 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Table 28: Information and Communication by Type of Impairment
Experience Type of Impairment
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
Self-determination 1 0 0 0 0
Lack of autonomy 1 1 0 0 0
Lack of dignity 1 1 0 0 0
Dignity 0 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 0 0 0 0 0
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 1 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 8 4 5 0 0
Inclusion and accessibility 4 1 2 0 0
Lack of respect 0 0 0 0 0
Respect 0 0 0 0 0

Males from 36-50 years of age have a higher percentage of isolation and lack of accessibility to information and communication. This is because more men were interviewed than women, and because men participate less due to employment reasons, thus they are more excluded from information and communication systems.

Table 29: Social Participation by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 0 8 7 3 12 6
Lack of autonomy 0 2 7 13 1 13 10
Lack of dignity 0 3 12 20 3 23 15
Dignity 0 0 4 6 2 9 3
Discrimination and inequality 0 3 13 13 6 23 13
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 5 1 3 3
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 1 2 14 22 5 31 14
Inclusion and accessibility 0 4 9 12 6 24 8
Lack of respect 1 2 8 20 4 25 10
Respect 0 0 3 6 2 9 2

The group most vulnerable to isolation and to not participating fully in social, recreational and cultural activities are males between 36 and 50 years of age. This same group is not respected and valued in their social environment, because they are considered a burden for society, and in order not to deal with them they prefer to push them to the sidelines.

In general, and in all age groups, more males feel excluded and treated unequally in the social sphere, keeping in mind of course the margin of error that may be present in the unequal distribution of the sexes.

Table 30: Privacy and Family Life by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 2 6 8 1 8 10
Lack of autonomy 0 1 4 7 0 7 5
Lack of dignity 1 3 9 15 3 17 21
Dignity 0 0 1 3 0 3 2
Discrimination and inequality 0 4 6 10 2 13 15
Non-discrimination and equality 0 1 1 0 0 2 2
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 0 3 12 17 6 23 25
Inclusion and accessibility 1 1 9 13 6 15 23
Lack of respect 1 4 8 9 0 13 12
Respect 0 1 2 7 2 8 8

Women between 36 and 50 years of age are the group most isolated and excluded from their family environments. In most of the cases studied, it is because the women have been abandoned by their partners and they have to raise their children by themselves. Similar results were obtained (12 females and 13 males) in which the interviewees said that they are not respected by their families, in many cases due to selfishness and the lack of patience of family members with respect to their relatives with disabilities.

Table 31: Privacy and Family Life by Type of Impairment
Experience Type of Impairment
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
Self-determination 3 4 0 0 0
Lack of autonomy 4 3 0 0 1
Lack of dignity 7 3 0 1 1
Dignity 2 0 0 0 1
Discrimination and inequality 3 4 0 0 1
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 8 4 0 1 2
Inclusion and accessibility 2 4 0 1 1
Lack of respect 6 4 0 0 0
Respect 2 2 0 0 0

People with physical disabilities have the greatest difficulties in accessibility, participation, and respect within the family, due to their need for space and greater levels of care.

Table 32: Health and Rehabilitation by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 0 1 2 0 2 1
Lack of autonomy 0 0 3 3 0 3 3
Lack of dignity 0 0 2 4 0 4 2
Dignity 0 0 1 1 0 1 1
Discrimination and inequality 1 0 6 7 1 10 5
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 1 2 5 12 3 15 8
Inclusion and accessibility 0 0 4 2 5 5 6
Lack of respect 0 0 4 3 0 3 4
Respect 0 0 1 0 0 0 1

With respect to health and rehabilitation, 35% of males do not have medical care, while a similar percentage (25%) is found in women. The reasons are similar; they are isolated and excluded from health and rehabilitation services mainly due to physical disabilities (wheelchairs, crutches, etc.) and for economic reasons.

Table 33: Health and Rehabilitation by Type of Impairment
Experience Type of Impairment
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
Self-determination 3 0 0 0 0
Lack of autonomy 5 1 0 0 0
Lack of dignity 5 1 0 0 0
Dignity 2 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 12 2 1 0 0
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 21 1 0 0 1
Inclusion and accessibility 11 0 0 0 0
Lack of respect 6 1 0 0 0
Respect 0 0 1 0 0
Table 34: Income Security and Assistance Services by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lack of autonomy 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lack of dignity 0 0 1 0 0 1 0
Dignity 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 0 0 1 1 0 2 0
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 0 2 2 9 1 9 5
Inclusion and accessibility 0 2 1 4 2 8 1
Lack of respect 0 0 1 0 0 1 0
Respect 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Table 35: Income Security and Assistance Services by Type of Impairment
Experience Type of Impairment
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
Self-determination 0 0 0 0 0
Lack of autonomy 0 0 0 0 0
Lack of dignity 1 0 0 0 0
Dignity 0 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 2 0 0 0 0
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 11 2 1 0 0
Inclusion and accessibility 7 2 0 0 0
Lack of respect 1 0 0 0 0
Respect 1 0 0 0 0

Isolation and lack of accessibility to social protection programs is experienced by more men with physical disabilities (43%) (wheelchair, crutches, etc.); this marginalization is due to discrimination by program staff and also due to a lack of information about the existence of such programs, which do not disseminate information about their services to the people who would benefit from them.

Table 36: Work by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 0 3 6 3 9 4
Lack of autonomy 0 2 1 7 1 8 3
Lack of dignity 0 0 3 11 4 12 6
Dignity 0 0 1 2 0 2 1
Discrimination and inequality 0 0 5 5 4 11 3
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 1 2 0 1 2
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 0 0 7 18 4 21 8
Inclusion and accessibility 0 0 2 4 5 9 3
Lack of respect 0 2 2 6 2 9 4
Respect 0 0 3 5 1 6 3

Work is another field in which people with disabilities feel discriminated. Overall, in the work section of this study, the percentages are higher for men (taking into account, of course, the margin of error). Twenty-four per cent of men do not have access to employment and 22% of women suffer the same problem.

The main reason for discrimination comes from employers. However, when they have the opportunity to work, 14% of men do not feel respected at work and 16% of women, who receive better treatment from their employers and colleagues. People with physical disabilities (wheelchairs, crutches, etc) experience the greatest accessibility difficulties in the workplace.

Table 37: Work by Type of Impairment
Experience Type of Impairment
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
Self-determination 9 0 3 0 1
Lack of autonomy 5 0 5 1 0
Lack of dignity 12 2 4 0 0
Dignity 0 1 2 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 13 0 0 0 1
Non-discrimination and equality 1 0 2 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 20 2 6 0 1
Inclusion and accessibility 4 3 3 1 1
Lack of respect 5 2 4 0 2
Respect 3 1 4 1 0

The area with greatest isolation and lack of employment opportunities for a person with disabilities is the city of La Paz, due to the type of terrain and the geographical location (altitude, cobblestone streets, steep hills).

Table 38: Transportation by Age and Sex
Experience Age Sex
Below 18 18-25 26-35 36-50 Over 50 Male Female
Self-determination 0 1 1 4 1 6 2
Lack of autonomy 0 1 2 4 1 6 2
Lack of dignity 0 2 4 4 1 8 3
Dignity 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 0 1 5 7 1 11 3
Non-discrimination and equality 0 0 0 1 0 1 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 0 3 12 10 1 22 4
Inclusion and accessibility 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lack of respect 0 1 5 5 2 10 3
Respect 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The lack of accessibility to transportation is striking, especially for males, with 35% that cannot access public or private transportation services. Fewer women lack access to such services (25%), because vehicle operators are more tolerant towards them.

Table 39: Transportation by Type of Impairment
Experience Type of Impairment
Mobility Sensory – Blind Sensory – Deaf Mental Intellectual
Self-determination 5 1 0 0 0
Lack of autonomy 8 0 0 0 0
Lack of dignity 11 0 0 0 0
Dignity 0 0 0 0 0
Discrimination and inequality 13 1 0 0 0
Non-discrimination and equality 1 0 0 0 0
Exclusion and lack of accessibility 19 5 1 0 1
Inclusion and accessibility 0 0 0 0 0
Lack of respect 10 2 1 0 0
Respect 0 0 0 0 0

People with physical disabilities (using wheelchairs, crutches, etc.) are most excluded from access to transportation services, because of no access to transportation, because they have the greatest problems getting into a car or boarding a bus (public transit), especially those who use wheelchairs who need assistance and time, which operators are not willing to offer. Since they cannot access public transit, they have to use private means of transportation (taxis), which implies increased expenses.

Recommendations from Interviewees

The following table outlines a series of recommendations suggested by people with disabilities interviewed for this study. The recommendations are intended to improve their treatment in society and to put an end to such discrimination and exclusion.

Table 40: Recommendations
Recommendation Number of Cases Percentage of Cases
Total 135
Parental Support 8
Economic Support 15
Social Support 24
Create Awareness 34
Legislation 34
Political Representation 6
Respect 13
Other 11

Twenty-five per cent of people with disabilities say that it is necessary to enforce and implement the laws that guarantee their rights and conditions of equality.

For example, the person with disabilities that suffers discrimination… whether the people who mistreat the person with disabilities are authorities or members of society, they should be legally charged according to the penal code, because we have the right to live just like any normal person… This would be respecting our rights.

We should get together and demonstrate, or there should be a decree or a code of conduct to ensure that we are treated well, by law, our rights should be recognized.\

Creating awareness in the population is a recommendation suggested by 18% of the people with disabilities interviewed in this study, with the objective of reducing societal abuse and discrimination towards them:

We need to open people’s minds and tell them that people with disabilities can do many more things than, if we have more potential than, quote, common people.

Inform people, be sociable, more communication. Above all, so that family members will accept a person with disabilities in their family.

4.4 Conclusions

In general, people with disabilities suffer constant abuse and exclusion. Just like other vulnerable groups, they are not free of barriers and they face multiple forms of discrimination as a result of their disabilities.

People with disabilities seem to be more excluded and isolated in family and social settings than in other spheres. In fact, more than 50% of people with disabilities reported having felt discriminated against in their social and family environments and being unable to actively participate in these spheres.

There are many obstacles and barriers in education and work, especially for those with physical impairments (wheelchair-users), who face greater work-related discrimination and exclusion. These problems create the need to enter the informal labour market with low wages and a poor quality of life.

Standard of living

Protection services, social assistance and health care in most cases are neither directed nor supervised by the state. As a consequence, people with disabilities are limited economically and isolated from accessing such services.

It is important to note that the public centres of provision of these services are the main sites of exclusion and discrimination against people with disabilities.

In the street, when using public transportation or public facilities, people with disabilities are more exposed to abuse and discrimination. People with physical disabilities are the most vulnerable group, as they are not respected and receive poor treatment in all means of transportation.

There is a lack of information in Bolivian society about how to treat people with disabilities and many are insensitive and take advantage of their disabilities to exclude them and not respect them for their differences.

In terms of responding to abuse and discrimination, people with disabilities do not report such situations out of fear of the possible consequences. In fact, the people with disabilities that decided to report instances of abuse and discrimination were neither taken into account nor compensated for the ill-treatment they suffered, despite the existence of Law 1678 which protects them.

Based on their experiences of discrimination and oppression, the majority of the people with disabilities interviewed in this study recommended the application of existing legislation to address and put an end to the discrimination and abuse they face, in addition to the creation and implementation of new laws that would ensure equal rights. Many interviewees also suggested creating awareness in the population in order to receive better treatment and be socially respected.

Chapter 5: Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on the results mentioned above, the majority of people with disabilities interviewed (almost all) suffer discrimination, exclusion, isolation and inequality in all spheres of society (family, education, health care, employment, etc.).

The following recommendations are presented to meet this need:

5.1 Immediate Applications of Results

As specific conclusions for immediate application, the current monitoring study will be useful for us to:

  • Have statistical data that will allow us to design projects to apply for funding.
  • Disseminate the results obtained to raise awareness and present the issue to society.
  • Have statistical information that will integrate the sector and strengthen the institution.
  • Develop prevention programs and strategies against discrimination.
  • Develop strategies to include the demands in the P.O.A. of city governments and prefectures.
  • Design health projects, programs and new employment initiatives.

5.2. Recommendations for Plan of Action

Taking into account the results obtained from the field research and based on the study’s conclusions, it is clear that it is necessary to promote human rights equality and the social inclusion of people with disabilities, to meet their needs and assist them in their economic and socio-cultural development.

Raising awareness about the proper treatment of people with disabilities among the Bolivian population is a task that must be taken on directly by the government through the Ministry of Education, so that respect for differences begins right from childhood, in addition to planning and promoting strategies that will inform society about the rights of people with disabilities.

Also advisable is the inclusion of social policies that respond to their needs through governmental and related organizations. These include the inclusion of people with disabilities in social protection and human development programs, and the active participation of people with disabilities in their social environment, in addition to the development of laws and national policies that ensure their rights.


D.R.P.I. Bolivia Team

  • Project Coordinator: 
    • Mr. Jaime Estívariz Bustillo
  • Project Sponsors Technical Support: 
    • Mr. Jaime Estívariz, President, Bolivian Confederation of Persons with Disabilities (C.O.B.O.P.D.I.)
    • F.E.C.R.U.P.D.I., Santa Cruz Federation of Persons with Disabilities
    • F.E.D.E.P.D.I., Departmental Federation of Persons with Disabilities (La Paz)
    • Dr. Marcia Rioux, Canada, Co-Director and Principal Investigator, Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.)
    • Dr. Bengt Lindquist, Sweden, Co-Director and Principal Investigator, Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.)
  • Analysis and Research Team – Bolivia: 
    • Andrea Atipobo Solano, Social Communications
    • María Eugenia García Peña, Social Worker
    • Adriana Velásquez, Social Worker
  • Additional Technical Support: 
    • Rita Samson, Project Coordinator, D.R.P.I.
    • Paula Pinto, Doctoral Candidate (Sociology), York University, D.R.P.I. Consultant
  • Monitoring Teams: 
    • Santa Cruz: 
      • Site Coordinators: 
        • Lucio Temo Rodríguez
        • Mario Torrico Canaviri
      • Monitors: 
        • Marco Antonio Alemán Quispe
        • Juan Espinoza García
        • Carlos Loli Cortez Vásquez
        • Shilem Zulema Suca Argote
        • Armando Escobar Lino
        • Sandra Borja Calderón
        • Sheila Arteaga Juárez
        • Elizabeth Cáceres Impa
      • La Paz: 
        • Site Coordinators: 
          • Teclo Gonzales Puquimia
          • Alfonso Huarecallo Gonzales
        • Monitors: 
          • Julio David Rodríguez Ch.
          • Daniel Pozo Durán
          • Lukas Fernández Flores
          • Flora Virginia Siñani Mamani
          • Sonia Francisca Mujica M.
          • Felipe Laura Alí
          • Eusebia Gladys Vargas Laura
          • Gladis Quispe


  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, U.N. Doc. A/61/49 (2006).
  • U.N.D.P. (2005), Human Development Report, viewed on March 3rd, 2009.
  • Article: “The State of People with Disabilities”, By Fernando Rasmussen, Bolivia.
  • People with Disabilities Act, Law 1678, December 15th, 1995, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, President of Bolivia.
  • General Law of People with Disabilities, new law published in Diario Oficial de la Federación, June 10th, 2005. Current Text, last reform published DOF 08-01-2008.
  • Supreme Decree 24807, August 4th, 1997, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, President of Bolivia.
  • Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, U.N. Doc. A/RES/48/96 (1993).
  • Supreme Decree 27477, Carlos D. Mesa Gisbert, President of Bolivia.
  • Supreme Decree 28671, OPS/OMS/BOLIVIA – C.O.N.A.L.P.E.D.I.S. – ombudsperson.
  • http://www.cobopdibolivia.com.bo
  • Wikipedia – Obispo Santiestevan (provincia)
  • La Prensa, La Paz – Bolivia September 3rd, 2008
  • Programa de Acondicionamiento y Rehabilitación Ambulatoria Vivr Creciendo“, María del Pilar Ruíz Ostria, Director, Univalle University Hospital, Edwin López Angulo, Coordinator of Vivir Creciendo.
  • Plan Nacional de Igualdad y Equiparación de Oportunidades Para las Personas con Discapacidad (P.N.I.E.O.)