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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

Bringing Ability to Those with Disabilities

from the Feb. 22, 2023 Bulletin


Juan Antonio Heyer Banda, the author of Arthur, A Productive Life Without Moving a Single Finger, freelances for several regional newspapers in Jalisco, México, where he lives in a sustainable organic farming community. Heyer Banda has recently been working to create links with foundations promoting the improvement of living and working opportunities for disabled persons.

You became interested in disability issues because of your brother. Tell us about him.

My brother Arturo had a diving accident at age 17, losing sense and movement from the neck down. That event put us all — brothers, sisters, mom and dad — working around him to compensate for his disadvantage. 

Our family involvement went well beyond just supplying the essentials. We provided Arturo with as much aid as required to keep him functional, with opportunities for study, leisure, and travel equal to what any of us enjoyed, no more but no less.


My mother insisted that my brother go back and finish high school. He later earned a degree in mechanical engineering.

My inventive father made a wheelchair from scrap wood and cushions. He and Arturo then invented a mouth stick. He could move his head and. with the stick, he could turn the pages of a book. With different telescopic endings on the stick, he could change diskettes in his computer’s CD player, paint, and manipulate a turntable desk and an easel they also invented.


Without those devices, my brother might only have one thing he could reach.” These devices all multiplied his ability to interact with different objects.   

Photo: David Werner. Wheelchair from Proyecto Projimo

What kind of health care did people with physical disabilities find available then and what do they find now?

State and federal budgets in México remain limited. We are a third world country. Even so, I haven’t heard of a disabled person being denied emergency attention in public clinics or hospitals. A different story with private hospitals. In México, the Cruz Roja— Red Cross — and the governments Cruz Verde, or Green Cross, cover 99 percent of the emergency services in the accidents that mark the start line for most disabled persons.

We’ve seen major changes since 2018, a “before” and an “after.” The new federal administration is dismantling the corruption and pharmaceutical mafias that once dominated the disability landscape. Former administrations degraded public health services, with the intention of trashing the image of these services to facilitate the privatization of the entire health system. In those years, the authorities staffed public hospitals with fewer nurses and doctors than private hospitals and let medications get siphoned off for sale on the black market.

As for rehabilitation programs, the Desarrollo Integral de la Familia — the DIF — has been providing them, but far below the level needed. Nonprofit organizations have had to take care of much of the necessary rehab activity.

But the current Mexican government has just announced the creation of rehabilitation centers for disabled persons in rural zones. This move represents a 180-degree turn from the privatization policies of the last six federal administrations. I will join my efforts with this new policy and hope to see it spreading all over México and beyond our borders. 

Are people with disabilities getting more integrated into social and economic life?


Sad to say, but many disabled persons still end up selling candy on sidewalks, as practically beggars, getting way more than the value of the candy being “sold.”  On the other hand, in recent years I’ve seen secretaries, assembly workers, and bureaucrats, as well as people fixing cellphones and laptops, working from wheelchairs.


I consider Project Projimo, north of Mazatlán in Sinaloa, a model of what can be done. David B. Werner founded this project in 1979, and it’s still operating. This effort has the “plus” of involving disabled people, along with the whole community, in learning how to take care of and rehabilitate themselves.

The program also helps disabled people design and build their own crutches and wheelchairs, their own carts, orthopedics, and prostheses. This strikes me as the most efficient way to deal with disabled persons’ physical and social rehabilitation. 

Photo: David Werner, Project Promo

Your brother Arturo died in 2012, but you’re working to bring his inventions to more people, right?


Only recently, I came across a person I have wanted to meet for a long time, that David Werner whose work I just mentioned. He took me to all the places in Sinaloa where he works with disabled persons and their families and showed me efforts such as Project Projimo. This trip revived my idea of turning Arturo’s inventions over to someone who could make, promote. and sell them to benefit many people who would definitely become more functional with their use.

David also told me about the “replica” of his project in Nogales, Sonora, ARSOBO, A.C., an effort run by foundations in Tucson, Arizona.


I’ve visited the project and talked to the people there. We’ve already shipped them a motorized easel and several “mouth sticks” designed to extend the independence and functionality of a quadriplegic person. Once I assembled these devices and showed how they work, the people in Nogales seemed to be enthusiastic about manufacturing them. Arturo’s legacy will live on!