3 Most Common Types of Disabilities in Guatemala

what is the most common type of disability in guatemala

Guatemala is a country famous for a couple of fascinating things including the city of Antigua – a UNESCO world heritage site, Mayan culture, rain forests, and volcanic sites.

But as beautiful as it may seem to be, Guatemala has a lot of downsides, some of which you’ll become aware of in a bit.

Guatemala is part of the United Provinces of Central America and one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

Although it has the largest economy in Central America, more than half of its population lives below the international poverty line.

With a population of over 17,153,288 people, 59.3% live below the international poverty line.

Poverty and disability are, therefore, two factors that are mingled together. Both are a cause and consequence of each other.

The situation is such that when Guatemala is mentioned, these two factors come to mind.

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Disability in Guatemala

People living with disabilities in Guatemala mostly face difficulties in functional domains like seeing, hearing, walking, and taking care of themselves.

About 13% or more of the Guatemalan population (which equals over 2 million people) have a disability and 31% of all households include at least one person with a disability.

These Guatemalan citizens living with disabilities are poorer and have a higher dependency ratio than citizens living without disabilities.

Furthermore, it is so sad that the disabled population in Guatemala doesn’t have access to the needed services and special requirements meant for disabled people.

Requirements such as disability insurance, social programs, rehabilitation centers, special schools, sidewalks, modified buildings, ramps, and so on.

A large percentage of disabled individuals have no choice but to put themselves at risk of begging in the middle of highways.

Some are also seen in parks, restaurants, streets, and buses begging for alms.

The situation is very demeaning and uncomfortable, especially for persons living with disabilities.

Related: 5 Stages of Adjustment to Disability

Major Causes of Disabilities in Guatemala

The following are the leading causes of disabilities in Guatemala.

disability discrimination guatemala

High Rate of Violence

About 80% of acquired disability cases are caused by firearms.

It is of general knowledge that sexual, physical, and psychological violence are committed by staff, armed guards, and inmates.

For example, these crimes are committed against children and adults with disabilities at the Federico Mora Hospital.


Poverty can be said to be the root cause of most of the misfortunes in Guatemala.

This is because all of the common disabilities stem from poverty.

Most Guatemalans are so poverty-stricken that they live in houses that are on the verge of collapsing and cannot afford basic necessities like water and electricity.


You might think it funny.

But lack of nutrition aids false aging and makes real aging unbearable with various illnesses that can easily be avoided.

For instance, the lack of means to treat illnesses that have to do with the respiratory system or the heart will automatically result in a lot of physical disabilities.


Citizens have no means to prevent illnesses because they cannot afford to take care of themselves.

Hence, they fall sick easily and are left untreated.

Most of these illnesses end up turning into a much bigger problem that could become a disability.


Traumatic events and experiences are a very easy way of making an individual disabled, especially mentally.

A lot of adult Guatemalans are in this situation and, sadly, have no means of getting out.

In 1976, an earthquake occurred that made over 500,000 Guatemalans permanently disabled.

Related: 13 Most Common Reasons for Wheelchair Use

Other Causes of Disabilities in Guatemala

  • Uneven distribution of income
  • Weak governance
  • Endemic corruption
  • Lack of respect for human rights
  • Restricted access to economic opportunities and social services
  • Food and citizen insecurity

What Is the Most Common Type of Disability in Guatemala?

Disabilities in Guatemala are more common in men (58%) than women (42%).

The disability cases are widely varied into three. They’re listed below.  

what is the most common type of disability in guatemala city

1. Physical Disabilities (taking up 60% of the disability cases)

Mobility limitations (as well as the mental disabilities listed below) are the most common disabilities reported in Guatemala. Physical disabilities in Guatemala range from:


It is a paralysis that affects the legs, pelvic organs, and torso – all or part of it. Sometimes, it can happen after a spinal cord injury.

Paraplegia is usually a result of severe damage to the vertebrae, ligaments, or discs of the spinal region.


This is also known as Polio. It is a paralysis caused by a virus transmitted through contaminated water, food, and contact with an infected person.

With the poverty conditions in Guatemala, you need not think twice as to why it is plagued with this disability.

Spinal Cord Injuries

These are caused by any type of accident that affects the spine. It usually makes individuals end up using a wheelchair.

In Guatemala, this is a common circumstance that most disabled citizens find themselves in.

The condition is so bad that most affected individuals cannot afford to get a wheelchair due to their financial situation.

Related: Sign Language Puns: Everything You Should Know


It can also be called Joint Inflammation. It is an inflammation of the joints, which causes pain and stiffness that worsens as an individual grows older.

Different types of arthritic conditions are caused by different situations including infections, stress, and many underlying diseases.

Other types of physical disabilities include respiratory disorders, heart diseases, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and many more.

2. Sensory Disabilities (taking up 36% of the disability cases)

Guatemalans battle disabilities like blindness and speech and hearing loss.

Out of every 1000 persons in Guatemala, 10 persons are very likely to be deaf and dumb.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), there are 70,000-80,000 individuals suffering from speech and hearing disabilities in Guatemala.

Most committees set up to help these disabled individuals are either NGOs, private-owned facilities, or individual families striving to help their loved ones.

Thus, there are very limited and restricted resources to help and assist the entire disabled population in Guatemala.

3. Mental Disabilities, (taking up 3.1% of the disability cases)

Most mental cases in Guatemala are a result of anxiety and depression.

You can guess that this is greatly caused by the poverty-stricken situation and other economic issues.

3 Most Common Types of Disabilities in Guatemala


My love for the disabled community started when I helped a blind man cross the road at around age 6. Fast forward to decades later, I became the caregiver of my grandma, who lost her ability to speak in her 90s. This blog helps me to produce helpful content that aligns with my passion.

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