31 May 2023

In April, in response to the complaint submitted by S.M.G.V., a woman with an intellectual disability, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities determined that Mexico had not taken the necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure her access to tertiary education.

The complaint submitted by S.M.G.V. outlined how she had failed the admission test for a Bachelor of Visual Arts, but had not been provided with the modifications necessary to allow her to take the exam on an equal basis as peers without a disability.

Despite having completed primary and secondary education to a satisfactory standard, and having obtained a certificate of technical vocational studies in fashion design from the Vocational School of Fashion Design in the State of Morelos, S.M.G.V. was not allowed to sit the admissions test for the Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Morelense Centre for the Arts. She was informed by the Centre that it held no financial resources nor was the programme designed for people with intellectual disabilities. Furthermore, the admissions test and process were designed and conducted for candidates without disabilities.


The legal process

In the first instance, S.M.G.V. sued the Morelense Centre and the relevant authorities, including the Governor and the Ministry of Education of the State of Morelos, on the basis that they had failed to implement the necessary measures and public policies which would promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in tertiary education and guarantee their access.
After the Mexican courts dismissed her case, she took her complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Committee’s decision

The Committee assessed S.M.G.V’s complaint and Mexico’s response, and found that the State party had not ensured the accessibility of the Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Morelense Centre for the Arts, and had also failed to protect S.M.G.V from prejudices and stereotypes relating to her disability. Rather than reflecting an isolated instance, the Committee highlighted that the violations in this case sit within a wider pattern of structural challenges faced by people with intellectual disabilities in Mexico.

The Committee determined that Mexico had failed to ensure accessibility, particularly in terms of entrance examinations, information and communications tools, curricula, educational materials, teaching methods, assessments and language and support services. It suggested that a dialogue to determine what accommodations and measures were necessary to sit admissions tests should have been initiated by the Morelense Centre for the Arts with S.M.G.V.

These accommodations could have encompassed the provision of extra time to complete the exams, or the support of a specialised professional to support full understanding of test expectations. In order to provide redress to S.M.G.V, the Committee recommends that the State party guarantees the rights of S.M.G.V. to tertiary education through an accessible admissions process at the education institution of her choosing. Among the measures recommended for effective remedy are the provision of effective accommodation. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that Mexico establish complaints mechanisms for cases of violations of the right to education.

Read the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities press release here