Working for urban planning without “disabilities”
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
What is a disability? Most of the time this question seems easy to answer, but other times it could be more difficult. The term has been used to describe those living with physical, mental or emotional challenges who find some tasks more difficult to accomplish than do others without a disability. To educate sanmiguelenses on the topic of disability, the Centro de Crecimiento, CENCRE (Integral Rehabilitation Center for Special Needs Children and Adults), will hold its Second Annual Week of Including Persons with Disabilities to celebrate the International Day of Disability (December 3) declared by the United Nations. This week will features movies, art workshops, talks and more.
The Centro de Crecimiento is a nonprofit organization that focuses its efforts on serving people with different levels of disabilities, with the goal of helping them become more independent and accepted. The institution was founded in 1977 by Doña María de la Luz Martínez de Maxwell (Lucha Maxwell), who has been the president of the organization since then. Doña Lucha said, “I began helping a blind seven-year-old girl who lived near el Caracol, whose single mother left her at home taking care of her younger brothers, with just a pot of beans and some tortillas. I went to see her and I realized she indeed needed help. At that time, Debbie Kent, a woman who was born blind, was living here in San Miguel, and she offered to help with this girl, named Betty Robles. She began working with her. Betty is currently living in Mexico City, working as secretary for the Association for the Blind. She is married and has a son.” Maxwell also commented, “I began to do therapeutic work, but then I noticed that children with physical and mental problems often suffered discrimination, bad treatment and segregation. I had a wonderful mother who taught me to share.”
Recent changes at the CENCRE
Since April of this year, the CENCRE has a new director, Roberto Corona Torres, a clinical psychologist with a specialization in art therapy. He has worked for the Fundación Centro Histórico in Mexico City teaching art therapy and community service. Corona also worked for the Red Cross in Polanco, where, he said, “I used to be in charge of critical situations of adaptation of persons who due to an accident had a disability. Here, at the CENCRE, it is very different because the family and those affected have already lived through the whole process of adaptation. They are out of a hospital and have a different story,” said Corona. He also commented that “the opportunity that I have had here is to observe the needs and the talent of the personnel working for the CENCRE, who are very committed to their jobs and to the people with disabilities. All who work in the CENCRE do this job as a vocation. We help people to become themselves and independent persons.”
Since Corona took office, several changes have been made. For example, in the physical therapy center, “which is the crux of our operations,” they used to treat people with different injuries, not just fractures, dislocations or sprains, but those with movement problems caused by brain injuries or car accidents. “The therapeutic team realized that there was not a complete rehabilitation if the problem is not treated in other areas. For example, if someone who had a car accident had an injury in his legs or arms that made it difficult to do some activities, that person could have several emotional issues, depression and loss of fine motor functions such as how to manipulate a fork or a pen, and this is an impact in his daily life. For that, he will need therapy to help him,” said Corona. In the physical therapy center there was a group of users who needed such attention; now they are being screened and they are offered attention in this area so they do not have to go to a special clinic or a hospital. “Here at the CENCRE we can offer them a complete therapeutic program according to their needs,” he said.
According to Corona, this change in the organization also requires a change in the opinion or vision that people with disabilities have about themselves, as well as a change in their relatives. The CENCRE wants to make a change so that in addition to rehabilitation those with disabilities can become integrated into society, the workforce and the educational system. According to the director, the obstacles that people with disabilities have to face in society are many. “There are no opportunities for special education, and there is a lack of jobs as well as opportunities for access to entertainment. Always there is something obstructing the path and exposing those with disabilities to danger,” he added.
Second Week for Including Persons with Disabilities
The director of CENCRE commented that they are preparing this week of activities to “reeducate the population about disabilities and all the implications for social inclusion of persons with disabilities.” He said that “inclusion is not just the construction of ramps or accessible doors, but including the disabled in the plans for economic and social development.”
Prior to the inauguration of the event, on December 3 at 10am a walk through the main streets of the city will be held. It will end at the Plaza Cívica, where the week of activities will be inaugurated. With this walk, commented Corona, persons with disabilities will begin to be heard so those who do city planning will consider them in their planning.
All the events will be in Spanish and include movies with themes related to disabilities, art exhibits, lectures and talks targeted to the public in general. At the Plaza Cívica there will be art materials available so residents can express themselves through art in the matter of disabilities. You can find the whole program in the Festivals and Events section of the Qué Pasa supplement.