Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Living with Disability in Guatemala

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Living with Disability in Guatemala

Article excerpt

In Third World countries around the globe, care and concern for people with disabilities has grown. Increased recognition of children's delayed development because of malnutrition is evident, and concerns for quality of life following life-sustaining medical treatment have been voiced. Awareness has led to a demand for special education and rehabilitation. This pattern of evolving concern is also evident in developing countries of the western hemisphere.

In Guatemala, for instance, special education and rehabilitation were started in the private sector by parents and charitable groups. Responsibility for such programs has shifted somewhat in recent years with governments sharing in program development and operation. Guatemala, Central America's most heavily populated country, offers a prime example of this shift to a more balanced public-private sharing of responsibility for improving the lives of disabled people. How one third world nation, such as Guatemala, responds to its citizens with disability may be significant for understanding disability in developing countries worldwide and could lead to a theory of social response to disability.

This study focuses on patterns of program development for the disabled in Guatemala and examines how government has been slowly increasing its participation in such programs. The research questions for this qualitative investigation were: 1. What is it like in Guatemala with disability? 2. How do Guatemalans with disability support themselves? 3. What services are available for individuals with disability in Guatemala? 4. How has the Guatemalans government participated in providing services for those who are disabled? 5. What are the patterns of program development and social responsibility for individuals with disability in Guatemala?

Method

This study is a component of a larger study (Couch, 1988) sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the IBM Corporation, and Partners of the Americas. Conducted by the Programs on Technical Assistance for the Handicapped (PATH) division of Partners, the larger study examined employment opportunities for disabled youth in Central America. The overall research design was a purposive yet limited, exploratory, naturalistic survey conducted by a four-person research team (Guba & Lincoln, 1981; Patton, 1980; Whyte, 1984).

As with the other countries involved in the larger PATH study, data were gathered through interviews (Schatzman & Strauss, 1973) and observations (Pelto & Pelto, 1978) over an 18-day period by a four-person Guatemala team consisting of a Guatemalan private business consultant, a Guatemalan social worker affiliated with a rehabilitation center, an American college professor of rehabilitation and special education, and an administrator from the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind. Those interviewed included disabled individuals, employers, parents, and service providers in both the public and private sector (Miles & Huberman, 1984).

Respondents were chosen by the Guatemalan team members who used their personal networks (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984) to select those to be interviewed. Of these 28 individuals, 9 (32%) were individuals with disability, 3 (10%) were personnel directors of international companies with large Guatemala City operations, 4 (15%) were parents or family members of individuals with disability, and 12 (43%) were professional service providers from either the public or private sector. About half of the individuals with disability and their family members were from rural areas; the rest reside in the capital city. Contrary to trends the data later revealed, those individuals with disability who were interviewed were, for the most part, employed. They were probably selected because most had been served at the rehabilitation center where a research team member worked. They may have been selected just because they represented successful case histories. …

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