Latin America and the Caribbean

A mother holding her smiling little girl who is blind
A mother with her child at FUNDAL, a Perkins International partner program in Guatemala.

Perkins has worked in Latin America and the Caribbean since the early 1990s. The heart of these efforts is a grassroots approach to building partnerships with schools, parent groups and Ministries of Education. In 1990, there were six programs in the region serving less than 100 children who were deafblind or blind with additional disabilities.

In 2011, as a result of services provided by Perkins International and our partners:

  • 14,526 children benefited from educational opportunities they otherwise would not have been able to access
  • 6,589 professionals received training to better serve children who are blind, deafblind, or blind with additional disabilities
  • 42 organizations worked with parents and empowered them to become advocates for their children’s rights
  • 938 Perkins Braillers®, the pen and paper for a person who is blind, were distributed throughout the region

Click here for a full list of our local partners in Latin America & the Caribbean.

Project Highlights

Learn more about our work with examples of recent achievements and find out how you can be part of the transformation. Together, we can turn possibilities into realities and empower more people with disabilities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to realize their full potential.

Giving Parents a Strong, United Voice in Latin America

The Challenge: When Perkins International visited the region in the early 1990s we were surprised to find that most parents did not feel they had a right to education programs and services for their children who were blind, deafblind, or blind with additional disabilities. Perkins staff knew from years of experience teaching children with multiple disabilities and working with their families that parents need to participate in their children’s education to have consistency between what children learn in the home and at school. But parents in Latin America were not part of the conversation. There was no parent networking and no coming together to demand the services their children needed and deserved in order to learn and develop to their full potential.

A mother and her son touching foreheads, leaning against each other
A mother bonds with her son in Costa Rica.

The Intervention: Perkins set out in Latin America with two major goals: 1) to create a parent voice in advocating for new programs; and 2) to promote partnerships with parents and families across all school programs.

The Method: Perkins presented trainings for parents educating them on how to work with their children at home and how to advocate for education services that would meet the needs of the individual child. Perkins International staff created a bridge between school programs and families, demonstrating the value of partnerships. The more a child’s education is connected to what’s happening at home, the more the child benefits and the easier it is for the child to develop communication and language.

Most importantly, Perkins brought parents together to network, share experiences, and unite as advocates for the rights of their children with disabilities. Perkins began by helping parents establish formal organizations for regional and national advocacy in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Those parents became leading voices for change and inspired parents in countries across the region to join together.

In 2011 Perkins International developed trainings by parents for parents reaching over 2,000 parents and family members regionally. In June 2010 Perkins International brought together leading parents from 15 Latin American countries for a three-day conference in Argentina. Leaders of parent organizations, who had just started the search for solutions for their children, met members of parent organizations who have been struggling for better services for individuals who are blind, deafblind, or blind with additional in Latin America for the last 20 years.

The Result: An important outcome of the Argentina region-wide conference was the creation of the Latin American Federation of Families of Individuals with Deafblindness and/or Multiple Disabilities. The federation provides training, support, and empowerment to families and parent organizations, promotes parent and professional partnerships, and advocates for public policies supporting social inclusion and new services and programs. But even more significant, the federation established a set of common values to guide everything parent advocates do across individual countries and cultures.

The resulting “Rights of parents of individuals with deafblindness and/or with visual impairment and additional disabilities” reads:

  • We have the right to access information and be involved in school collaborative teams and services;
  • We have a right to be a parent to our own child;
  • We have the right to receive training;
  • We have the right to participate and make decisions in educational teams;
  • We have the right to vacations and to be happy.

The united voices of parents have already led to significant changes and new programs in several countries. The Ministries of Education in Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico are now funding education and networking for parents. At the Deafblind International (DbI) Conference in September 2011 in Brazil, Latin America parent leaders expanded their reach even further by meeting with parent leaders from Europe, Africa and Canada to form the first World Network of parents of children who are deafblind.

Providing Access to Information and Resources for Teachers and Families

The Challenge: When Perkins International opened a Latin America office in Cordoba, Argentina we realized there were no Spanish language materials to support the education of students with multiple disabilities. As a result, the practice of multiple disability education was ill defined and there was no common understanding of best practices. Programs were isolated and teachers and parents were working on their own doing the best they could by trial and error.

A mother in Ecaudor sitting with her school aged son who has multiple disabilities
A mother with her son who has multiple disabilities in Ecuador.

The Intervention: Perkins International staff in Argentina developed a passion for collecting and translating educational materials and resources that teachers and parents could use at school and at home to guide them in working with children with multiple disabilities and to create common standards throughout the region.

The Method: We reached out to programs in Latin America and the United States asking them to share their personal libraries. Materials were collected, translated into Spanish, and packaged into bibliographies with thousands of pages of articles on specific topics such as communication strategies, low vision, orientation and mobility, and curriculum for children with multiple disabilities. Each year we distribute approximately 300 of these bibliographies on cd to project partners, universities, students, professors, parents and Ministries of Education. In addition, our Argentina office has a library with thousands of resources and reference materials available for loan.

The Result: In 2010, our commitment to helping families and professionals access invaluable information culminated with the launch of Perkins International’s Latin America website, www.Perkinsla.org. The Spanish language site provides an even more immediate source for the latest information and best practices in the education of children with multiple disabilities. Equally important, the site provides an opportunity for teachers and parents to share ideas and successes.

Learn more about this innovative resource and how it’s impacting lives throughout Latin America.

For more information about Perkins International's work in Latin America and the Caribbean contact Regional Coordinator, Gloria Rodriguez-Gil at Gloria.Rodriguez@Perkins.org