The National Disability Council (CONADI) states that around 12-14{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} of the total population in Guatemala has some kind of disability

According to the World Bank, around 82{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} of People with Disabilities in Latin American countries live in poverty, and they are more vulnerable to exclusion from the economic, social, and political life, because of stigmatization and lack of access

In April, 2009, Guatemala ratified the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an agreement that ensures a more accessible and just society for people living with disabilities, and yet they have yet to implement

Only 10{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} of students with disabilities complete high school and 51{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} are illiterate


1. An accurate count of the number of Guatemalans with disabilities:

  • Not unlike most post-conflict countries, Guatemala has been said to have a higher percentage of people living with disabilities than the world average of 10{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} (The World Bank).
  • The wide variation in these statistics makes such estimates highly contested.
  • Census material used to gauge some of these estimates calculated disability prevalence by household, not per individual, and thus many people were left uncounted.
  • The definition of “disabled” tends to drastically vary and may account for such a wide variation.
  • Because no one knows for sure how many people are living with disabilities in Guatemala, there is a serious need to accurately measure these figures so that services can be adequately allocated.

2. Increased access to social services due to high rates of poverty and rapidly growing disability rate:

  • There is a general consensus among those consulted by the International Disability Rights Monitor that there has been an increase in the last five years of the number of Guatemalans with disabilities. The causes of the increase cited include: increasing violence at all levels including violent crime and domestic violence, increased early identification and detection of impairments, the lack and poor quality of maternal health care services, and poverty. Injuries sustained during the internal armed conflict are another major source of Guatemala’s disability population.

3. Employment opportunities:

  • According to the director of CONADI, the percentage of persons with disabilities who currently have jobs in Guatemala is very low, possibly as low as 2{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919}.
  • Most of those who are employed work in the informal sector.
  • In all Latin-American countries, the employment rates for persons with disabilities are lower than for those without and a high percentage work informally, or are underemployed.
  • It is estimated by the World Bank that 2.97-2.28{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} in GDP, or $692,010,000-$531,240,000 is lost annually by the Guatemalan government in their failure to support citizens with disabilities in vocational training and job placement.

4. Accessible housing:

  • There is a shortage of programs that provide housing for people with disabilities in Guatemala. Besides a Center for Independent Living, there are no housing units specially designed for people with disabilities or any systems in place to design or provide special housing units for persons with disabilities.
  • Most people with disabilities live in isolation, with their families or with their caregivers.

5. Communication services:

  • In general, people with disabilities who require accessible communication and information must attempt to obtain resources on their own.

6. Access to the right to vote:

  • There is no accessible information on the electoral process or the candidates and their platforms in Guatemala. Campaign messages broadcast on television are neither captioned nor interpreted in sign language.
  • None of the information published by print media is made available in alternative formats for people with visual or reading disabilities.
  • Physical accessibility of polling stations presents another challenge. Although there is no official data to speak of, an informal survey of the polling stations in the last general elections held in Guatemala showed that accessibility was a significant barrier in the voting process.

7. Accessible transportation:

  • Transportation infrastructure that would enable the free movement of people with disabilities is also largely absent.
  • In Guatemala, the public bus system is run by Empresa Metropolitana de Tránsito (EMETRA), registered with the Municipality of Guatemala City. In 1999, some organizations of people with disabilities made an attempt to reach an agreement with EMETRA in order to make urban transportation accessible. The agreement did not materialize.
  • There have been no further initiatives to allow people with physical disabilities to freely use public transportation.

8. Accessibility of the built environment:

  • The design and construction of public accommodations and facilities are regulated by city governments through construction standards. These standards do not contain any provisions for accessibility of people with disabilities.
  • Even governmental buildings are typically unaccessible.

9. Inclusive education:

  • 86{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} of students with disabilities in Guatemala are not receiving an education (2005).
  • There are virtually no special education programs for middle to high school students. There are only 165 special education teachers in the country.
  • Only 10{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} students with disabilities in Guatemala complete high school and 51{6cb0044778ebb56de3d50f423180e9fa4f1cca44e6c6e3b8b1e87b2dc645a919} are illiterate.
  • Most schools (primary through university) in Guatemala, public and private included, are physically inaccessible for people with disabilities.

10. Enforcement of policy:

  • There are only a few documented cases of claims made on the grounds of disability rights violation that resulted in positive outcomes.
  • Disability rights legitimated by the Constitution & other laws have not been funded and as a result have not been executed.
  • Chapter Seven of Legislative Decree 135-96 obligates city governments to regulate both the construction and adaptation of buildings and public transportation in order to make them accessible for people with disabilities. However, the Political Constitution of the Republic guarantees the autonomy of local governments, which has been interpreted by some jurists and municipal authorities to mean that municipalities are not bound by the decree. Thus, although this law came into force in 1997, municipalities have failed to comply


Guatemalan Constitution Article 53 (1993)
The Disabled. (“Minusvalidos” is used in the Constitution)

  • “The State guarantees the protection of the disabled and of those persons who suffer from physical, psychic, or sensory limitations.
  • Medical-social care to them as well as the promotion of policies and services that make their rehabilitation possible and their integral reincorporation in society is declared to be of national interest.
  • The law will regulate this matter and will create the technical organisms and executors that may be necessary.”

Decree 135-96 Law of Attention to People with Disabilities (Created from Peace Accords)

  • The Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act covers areas such as health, education, employment, accessibility to the physical environment and transportation, access to information and communication, culture, and sports.
  • The United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities served as a model in the drafting of the decree.
  • Does not contain any penalties for non-compliance. There have been several initiatives to amend it in order to bridge this legal gap, but none have been successful so far.
  • Does not yet have regulations, which are essential to enforcing the law. Although the law came into force several years prior to this report, regulation drafting and adoption are still in process.
  • Overall, few people are aware of the contents of this law, and there is little to no compliance.
  • Created CONADI

Social Insurance Act and the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Youth Act

  • Includes a specific chapter on children and youth with disabilities.
  • Serves as a basis for Guatemala’s public policy on the protection of children and youth

Civil Code – 2006

  • Section 13 – any individual who is congenitally blind or deaf or acquired his or her disability during childhood can be declared legally incapable, which means they are deprived of exercising their civil and legal rights. They cannot make their own will or be a notary.

UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  • Guatemala signed on 30 March 2007
  • Guatemala ratified on 7 April 2009. On 7 April 2009, upon its ratification to the Convention, the Government of Guatemala notified the Secretary-General, in accordance with article 33 of the Convention, that he has designated the National Council for the Care of Persons with Disabilities (CONADI) as the government agency responsible for addressing issues relating to compliance with and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and for producing the reports required under the Convention.