Politics and Accessibility in Costa Rica

I recently had an enlightening conversation with Erin Van Rheenen, author of the excellent Moon title, Living Abroad in Costa Rica. She recently returned from an extended stay in the country and she made it a point to share an interesting political tid bit with me. Believe it or not, Costa Rica actually has a political party that focuses on inclusion. But wait, there

s more — it’s not just a splinter group supported entirely by the disabled population; but instead a driving force in Costa Rica politics with a substantial mainstream following.

At first, I wondered if we were talking about the same kind of inclusion here. I mean I’ve traveled to Costa Rica several times, and although I enjoyed the trips, it’s not exactly the most accessible country around. Quite the contrary; in fact it’s slow going for many disabled folks who live there. So I set out to clarify things with Erin, and to my great delight I discovered that indeed she was talking about physical accessibility and inclusion.

Founded by Oscar Lopez in 2004, Partido Accesibilidad sin Exclusin (PASE) saw its first victory in 2006, when they won a seat in the Legislative Assembly. And In this past election they increased their share to four seats. And although PASE is not the majority party, it does have a solid following — a following that’s growing. So who knows what will happen in future elections.

Of course, this begs the question: If a relatively inaccessible country like Costa Rica can have political party based on inclusion, then why can’t it happen in an accessible country like US? And if it did, could this type of a party actually garner a solid mainstream following?

Interesting questions to ponder.

But for now, the situation in Costa Rica is definitely worth following. Although the country lags behind in physical access; it’s apparently light years ahead when it comes to attitudinal; access. And with an increased political representation, the physical access can only improve.