Mexico failed to ensure access to inclusive tertiary education for woman with intellectual disability, UN Committee finds
28 April 2023
GENEVA (28 April 2023) – The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) found that Mexico had not taken the required legislative, administrative and other measures, including reasonable accommodation policies and staff training at tertiary education institutions, to ensure that a woman with intellectual disability has access to inclusive tertiary education.
The Committee published its Views today after examining the complaint submitted by S.M.G.V., a Mexican national who failed the admission test for a Bachelor of Visual Arts. She claimed that she had not been provided with the necessary and appropriate modifications to allow her to sit the test on an equal basis with applicants without a disability, which amounted to discrimination.
“This case is not about lowering admission standards but about appropriate modifications and adjustments in assessing applications from people with disabilities during the admission process,” said Committee member Markus Schefer, adding, “While it is undisputed that there are preconditions concerning the knowledge and skills needed to gain admission to tertiary education, admission procedures must take into account the specific requirements of candidates with disabilities.”
S.M.G.V.’s disability stems from brain damage caused by difficulty in breathing and crying at birth. Before the age of six, she was diagnosed with delayed motor, perceptual and language development, which had interfered with her learning processes. Her parents enrolled her in ordinary private schools, and she had satisfactorily completed primary and secondary education and obtained a certificate of technical vocational studies in fashion design from the Vocational School of Fashion Design in the State of Morelos, with an average grade of 7.5 out of 10.
S.M.G.V. applied for the Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Morelense Centre for the Arts in the same state in 2014. She was not admitted to the programme as the admission assessment and process were designed and conducted for candidates without disabilities.
The Dean of the Morelense Centre informed S.M.G.V. that there was no budget for admitting people with intellectual disabilities and that the curricula were not designed for people with disabilities.
S.M.G.V., therefore, sued the tertiary institution and various authorities, including the Governor and the Ministry of Education of the State of Morelos, alleging that the authorities had failed to put in place measures and public policies to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities and guarantee their access to tertiary education through inclusive programmes.
Taking into account the information provided by S.M.G.V. and the State party’s response, the Committee considered that Mexico had, on a general level, not ensured the accessibility of the Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Morelense Centre for the Arts, including the accessibility of entrance examinations, information and communications tools, curricula, educational materials, teaching methods, assessments and language and support services.
The Committee also considered that, in the specific case, the Morelense Centre for the Arts should have initiated a dialogue with S.M.G.V. to determine what reasonable accommodations were needed for her to take part in the admission tests common to all candidates, such as granting her extra time and providing her with the support of a specialized professional to ensure that she correctly understood test expectations.
The Committee further found that Mexico had failed to protect S.M.G.V. from stereotypes and prejudices related to her disability in the sphere of education.
The Committee also noted that the violations in this case are not isolated but, rather, are representative of structural challenges faced by people with intellectual disabilities in Mexico.
“States parties must ensure that the right of people with disabilities to education is realised through an inclusive education system at all levels, including preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary education, vocational training and lifelong learning, and for all students without discrimination,” Schefer said.
The Committee recommended that Mexico provide S.M.G.V. with an effective remedy and guarantee her rights to tertiary education by ensuring the accessibility of the admission process at an educational institution of her choice, including through the provision of reasonable accommodation, if that remains her wish. It also recommended that the State party establish complaints mechanisms for cases of violations of the right to education.
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