According to the Chilean National Foundation for the Disabled (FND), 15% of the world population has some sort of disability, while in Chile over 2.5 million people present some sort of physical, psychological, sensory or organic problem. Given this scenario, Patricia Araneda, a preschool teacher and a professional at the technical department of the National Early Education Board (JUNJI) – the state institution in charge of preschool education in Chile – implemented an innovative project: disabled dolls that teach children to understand and to value differences.
The initiative, whose main goal is to get preschoolers to relate to this subject matter from a young age and to motivate them to be inclusive and non-discriminatory, includes three dolls: one has glasses and represents visual impairment; another is missing a leg and uses crutches; a third is sitting in a wheelchair. “The main thing is to break with the myths and beliefs regarding disabled people so they can be considered yet another part of society,” explains the professional from the JUNJI, an institution that has previously worked on inclusion and cultural diversity with the project of Intercultural Preschools.
Araneda expresses her satisfaction at the initiative’s results. “We have managed to get the children to see disability as something natural and, in the case of children with problems, for them to identify. For example, if children with glasses or a similar level of disability see that the doll that they are playing with looks like them, it helps them to forge their identity, something that is very important at this stage,” she stresses. “Our goal is for children to have an inclusive education from the cradle onward.”
In addition, the Chilean capital’s main means of transportation, the Santiago Metro, has made significant progress in including disabled people in recent times. An example of this is the increase in the number of stations in the network with special access, such as elevators, ramps to facilitate station access, and tiles for people with reduced mobility.
Currently 75 of 108 stations have access infrastructure especially implemented for disabled people, compared to 10 years ago, when there were only 15.