University of Panama – Panama city, Panama

The Office for Equal Opportunities at University of Panama was created to comply with Law 42 of 1999, which establishes equal opportunities. The office attends to the three levels of University structure: students, teachers and administrative staff. The office’s mainoffice main role is to support persons with disabilities. This equity group was identified based on proposals by national plan/legislation, the university’s internal policies, and students themselves. It was endorsed by the community and its, citizens, and other external stakeholders. The University also has access targetstarget for specific equity groups.

In the last two years the office has carried out multiple activities with regards to equal access, inclusion and diversity, such as: 

Support and counselling for students and university staff, 

  • Lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty and non-teaching staff, 
  • Training courses for peer educators, 
  • Improving physical accessibility, 
  • Improving digital accessibility

In addition to activities to support inclusion, the office implements measures/activities to counter do and discriminatory practices at the university through recommendations/Guidelines and preventive programmes. 

One of the latest innovative practicespractice that the office introduced has been the process of professional and vocational orientation and reorientation for first-time students with disabilities. 

The motivation for establishing the programme was in the advisory office for the social inclusion of people with disabilities at the university. The need to cater for people with disabilities was the crucial factor for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish the Office for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff. Disability is a reality that must be addressed and every year more and more students with disabilities are entering the university, which demonstratesdemonstrated the success of the Office’s work.
The Office for Equal Opportunities at University of Panama is governed by Law 42 of 27 August 1999 and Law 15 of 31 May 2015 and Decrees 88 and 333, respectively.
The Office for Equal Opportunities at University of Panama has a coordinator (who is also a psychologist), an administrator, a secretary and two internship students from the Faculty of Psychology. Diversity, inclusion, and equality are explicitly mentioned in both the office’s and university’s strategies, policies, work plans. Decisions are made by the office, involving and considering also other units and external contributors actors such as institutions, agencies, specialists and foundations. The office is part of the regional and national networks, which helps in aligning strategies in terms of care and the follow-up of cases of persons with disabilities.
One of the main challenges that the office had to overcome wasare the lack of knowledge and understanding in theof the community, for example,i.e. fear of the unknown. The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the office is that the people working in the office have the knowledge and willingness to do the work required. The office receives funding from the state.
The Office for Equal Opportunities does not have a formal evaluation process. of the office. The office uses quantitative quantity indicators, such as number of participants, number of materials distributed and number of people served to measure the success. This data is collected through forms and attention sheets. The evaluation report is disseminated and shared through the institution’s reports (Accountability and Institutional Memory).

Office for Equal Opportunities

Panama City, Panamá