In November of 2012, The Great Commission of the Thirteenth Legislature of the State of Quintana Roo proposed a reform of the Law on Protection and Integral Development of Persons with Disabilities of Quintana Roo. The law classified autism under the medical assistance model—as a disease to be cured—and singled out people with autism for special attention apart from people with other disabilities.
The reform was drafted and approved by the Commission without consultation with people with disabilities in our state. This was in direct violation of articles 1 and 8 of the Constitution of Mexico, which guarantee the right of petition and protection of constitutional freedoms. The proposed legal reform also did not align with the rights-based United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and a number of federal regulations.
In response to the proposed discriminatory legal reform, civil society organizations and social groups of and for people with disabilities in the State of Quintano Roo started a movement called, “Nada de Nosotros Sin Nosotros,” (“Nothing About Us Without Us”). The movement was able to block the proposed reform from taking effect and work with the Legislature on a new modification in line with the social model of disability and the principles of the CRPD.
Submit Complaints in Large Numbers
The initial strategy consisted of each civil association, social group, person with a disability, and their families filing complaints with the local Human Rights Commission. In order to file complaints with the local Commission on Human Rights and to effectively participate in the proceedings, it was essential for each member to study the existing laws on disability in Mexico and master the CRPD in order to have legal arguments to block the reform.
The complaints were filed against the state Governor and the President of the Grand Commission of the Thirteenth Legislature. A total of 21 complaints were collected, which drew the attention of the press and we were able to gain their support in publicizing the issue.
Become Informed on Human Rights
We found it necessary to become informed on the subject of human rights, which worked in our favor since we can now draw on a deeper knowledge of the mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights to help people with disabilities. The Commission sat on the sidelines during the exchange of answers to the complaint between us and the officials. Their role was passive so it was necessary for the Nada de Nosotros Sin Nosotro members to be informed on the subject. As a result, we have obtained greater recognition from civil organizations for the defense of human rights.
Hold Firm on What You Want
As a result of the attention received from the complaints, we were able to hold several meetings with high ranking officials and negotiate our position. Although they requested that we withdraw our complaints filed with the Commission on Human Rights, we held firm. The only way the complaints would be dropped would be when a new law based on rights and in the spirit of the CRPD was introduced.
Seek Legal Assistance
Representation by an attorney with expertise in disability matters was essential to our success. To that end the Nada de Nosotros Sin Nosotro group requested the help of the National Confederation known as CONFE (the Mexican Confederation for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities). They supported us by providing the legal assistance of Emmanuel Cardenas, Esq., an expert on national and international disability law.
Work Together on a Solution
On December 12, 2012, a commission from Nothing About us Without Us worked with the judicial personnel from the Thirteenth Legislature to draft a new initiative entitled, “Bill for the Development and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the State of Q. Roo.” The inclusive, rights-based law was published in the Official Journal on July 30, 2013.
Psychiatrist, Alejandra Becerril Amador, is the Director of the two disability-focused civil society organizations listed below.
Pro-Exceptional Children Association A.C. addresses the rehabilitative and educational needs of children and adults with a variety of disabilities and has been working in Cancún and Quintana Roo for 19 years.
APAFHDEM Association A.C. addresses the needs of youth and adults with intellectual disabilities in the areas of inclusive employment and independent living. It has been working in Cancún and Quintana Roo for 23 years.
Both organizations are affiliated with the National Confederation CONFE, from which they have received considerable training on the CRPD.