In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Disability

  • Introduction
  • Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Journals
  • Disability Rights and Human Rights
  • Education
  • Disability Politics, Identities, and Communities
  • Indigeneity and Decoloniality
  • Feminist Disability Studies
  • Health History and Eugenics
  • Monstrosity and Teratology
  • Literary and Cultural Disability Studies
  • Disability Arts

Latin American Studies Disability
Susan Antebi
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0278


The role of disability in Latin American contexts has attracted increased attention in recent decades, thanks in part to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006 and subsequently ratified by all Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as most other nations throughout the world. This robust and detailed international legislation forms part of a broader tendency toward an expanded view of personhood and human rights, transcending nationally specific juridical contexts. The UN Convention has undoubtedly offered a much-needed framework for approaching injustices experienced by disabled people, particularly in contexts in which access to resources such as food, water, shelter, and education are limited by poverty, inequality, war, and natural disasters, as is the case for significant population sectors in Latin America. However, these injustices and inequalities remain in large part unresolved, particularly in the Global South, often due to discrepancies between legislation and lived reality, or the exigencies of global capital and its localized manifestations. Beyond the visibility of the UN Convention, and prior to its enactment, Latin American disability communities, disabled individuals, and advocacy organizations have played significant roles in promoting disability rights and opportunities in education, labor, the arts, social justice movements, and other sectors. In addition, Latin American scholarship in the interdisciplinary field of disability studies has grown in importance in recent decades, as evidenced by university programs and scholarly production in disability education, arts, human rights, mad studies, and disability history, among other areas. Many Latin American disability studies scholars note the British origins of the social model of disability, beginning in the 1970s, and in which, in contrast to the medical model, disability is located primarily in the social and physical environment, and not in the individual body of the disabled person. This shift toward the social model has undoubtedly impacted disability studies in Latin America, at times in dialogue with scholarship from Spain, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Yet a fuller picture of disability in the region must necessarily account for complex disability histories and the shifting, locally specific meanings of disability as shaped in part by coloniality and resistance, diverse indigenous practices and traditions, and locally lived experiences of gendered, racialized, and socioeconomic inequality. Latin American disability studies scholars continue to shape the field through detailed attention to nationally specific legislation, localized statistical studies, points of contact between disability studies and Latin American critical thought, and arts-based research and activism.


Few critical works from the Latin American context offer fully encompassing overviews of disability or disability studies in the region. This is likely due to the disciplinary diversity of the field, as well as a tendency toward scholarly focus on specific national contexts. In the case of Venezuela, for example, Aramayo Zamora 2013 offers a broad overview of contemporary areas of disability research in the country, covering such topics as intellectual disability, autism, Down syndrome, blindness, deafness, inclusion in society and the workforce, higher education, sexuality, and other areas, including an extensive literature review. Soto Martínez 2011 applies a historical approach to disability and disability studies in Mexico, from the pre-Hispanic period, to the 19th- and early-20th-century emphasis on public welfare, hygiene, and eugenics, to the later-20th-century turn to the social model and to legislation to promote disability rights. Turning to more globalized approaches, Revuelta and Hernández 2021 approaches the field from a broader perspective, offering a history from 1970 to the present, from the social model to the critical model, in which scholars attend to increasingly global contexts and intersectional understandings of disability. A number of collaborative volumes published in recent years, particularly in the social sciences, shed light on the broad, multidisciplinary, and multifaceted nature of Latin American disability studies. An excellent example is Yarza de los Ríos, et al. 2019, which provides a critical analysis of the field of disability in its diverse political and social relations. The volume includes discussion of the epistemic bases of critical thought in Latin America in relation to disability studies, as well as approaches to a variety of discrete topics, including education, prison systems, and practices of care. Researchers seeking compilations of statistical data on disability in Latin America will encounter numerous reports specific to national contexts; these documents have appeared with greater frequency since adoption of the UN Convention. In this context, Stang Alva 2011 provides a useful regional overview, with attention to changes to the concept of disability in recent years, new international and national legislation, and data on select countries.

  • Aramayo Zamora, Manuel. La investigación en discapacidad en Venezuela: Primeros aportes del siglo XXI. Caracas: Universidad Monteávila, 2013.

    An overview of contemporary disability research in Venezuela. The book also addresses the details and critiques of a new government proposal on special education. The author includes a literature review of a range of books on disability in the Venezuelan context.

  • Revuelta, Beatriz, and Raynier Hernández. “Estudios críticos en discapacidad: Aportes epistemológicos de un campo plural.” Cinta de Moebio 70 (2021): 17–33.

    DOI: 10.4067/s0717-554x2021000100017

    A study of the diverse and intersecting interdisciplinary approaches to disability, offering an overview of the history of the field. The article identifies three axes for critical disability studies: power and the construction of the normal; intersectionality; and posthuman assemblages.

  • Soto Martínez, Adriana. “La discapacidad y sus significados: Notas sobre la (in)justicia.” Política y Cultura 35 (Spring 2011): 209–239.

    A historical overview of the roles of Mexican social institutions in the construction and perpetuation of views on disability. Examines notions of disability from pre-Hispanic Mexico to the twenty-first century.

  • Stang Alva, María Fernanda. Las personas con discapacidad en América Latina: Del reconocimiento jurídico a la desigualdad real. Santiago: United Nations, Centro Latinoamericano y Caribeño de la Demografía (CELADE) División de la Población de la CEPAL, 2011.

    A concise report on disability in Latin America, offering a framework of changes to the concept of disability in recent decades. The report includes discussion of legal, institutional, and political frameworks, and statistical data on select countries.

  • Yarza de los Ríos, Alexander, Laura Mercedes Sosa, and Berenice Pérez Ramírez, eds. Estudios críticos en discapacidad: Una polifonía desde América Latina. Buenos Aires: CLACSO, 2019.

    This volume is the product of the CLACSO critical disability studies working group, and brings together a number of voices of Latin American disability studies scholars with the aim of promoting dialogue and exchange, and creating a kaleidoscopic and uniquely Latin American perspective on disability studies in the social sciences.

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