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High in the hills of Ecuador, a boy with a genetic disorder dreams of flight

Watch the story of Richard, a young boy with a genetic disorder who dreams of becoming a pilot.  Watch in RealPlayer


Inclusive education is central to UNICEF’s equity agenda and promotes meaningful learning opportunities to all children, including those with disabilities, within regular schools.

2014 Global Action Week for Education is focused this year on raising the awareness of issues around disability with the campaign Equal Right, Equal Opportunity: Education and Disability.

By Bob Coen

Like all children, those with disabilities have many abilities, but are often excluded from society by discrimination and lack of support, leaving them among the most invisible and vulnerable children in the world.

UNICEF's report The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities brings global attention to the urgent needs of a largely invisible population.

High in the hills of Quito, Ecuador, a country with progressive policy towards people living with disability, an 8-year-old boy with a genetic disorder attends school and dreams of flight.

QUITO, Ecuador, 29 May 2013 – It’s a chilly morning high in the hills on the outskirts of Ecuador’s sprawling capital city, Quito. In the working class neighbourhood of Venceremos, 8-year-old Richard Herrera is getting ready for school.

Richard sits on his bed in the small bedroom he shares with his 15-year-old brother Armando and his mother Marina, who is helping him dress. She puts on his clothes and shoes with care, feeds him a hearty breakfast and carries him down the stairs that lead from their tiny cinderblock house, down the rocky streets and steep hills and to the bus stop. 

Prone to fracture

Richard suffers from a genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. His bones have not developed properly; they are very weak and prone to fracture. He is very small for his age and walks with effort.

“My mom takes care of me and helps me in case I fall,” says Richard. “She helps me so that I don’t stumble and break my bones. She carries me to and lifts me into the bus.

“Because I am disabled, I have bones of glass and I cannot run and jump. If I fall, I can end up in the hospital.”

Richard is not able to do some things other children take for granted. “I would like to kick the ball and run and play on the swings...and jump,” he says. “But, I can fall like a rolling ball, and they would have to take me to the emergency room.”

© UNICEF video
Richard is 8 years old. He suffers from brittle bone disease. He attends a regular school, where he is at the top of his class. Ecuador has progressive policies towards people with disabilities.

School days

Richard attends a regular school, where he is at the top of his class. “I like subjects such as languages, mathematics, dictation, computing and drawing,” he says, his voice full of enthusiasm. He is one of just two students with disabilities.

He says that, at times, he feels different. “Sometimes, I feel a little bit uncomfortable. They say I walk slowly.” He adds, “But any of them can suffer, as well.”

Richard has the same hopes and dreams of many boys his age. “When I grow up, I want to be a pilot,” he says, smiling.

Equal rights a top priority

Richard is fortunate to be growing up in a country that has some of the most progressive policies towards people living with disability. The policies have been spearheaded by Vice-President of the Republic of Ecuador Lenín Voltaire Moreno Garcés, who is, himself, living with a disability.

Promoting equal rights for people living with disabilities has been a top priority. Legislation has been passed that, among others, provides various forms of assistance and financial support.

A message for other children

Richard has received a special bed, mattress and pillow, and a chair for bathing. He has also received a child-sized wheelchair, but, because of the bad roads and hills of his neighbourhood, he is not often able to use it.

When asked what message he has for other children who are living with disability, Richard says, thoughtfully, “To take care of themselves, to eat well and to not only be cared for by their mother, also to help her.

“They can maybe help her by cooking the meals sometimes.”



UNICEF Photography: Children with disabilities

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