Getting around Panama for the disabled is not quite as easy as in the United States. While some public buildings and busses are equipped for disabled access, many are not. Existing laws are finally being enforced for new construction and building remodels to help remedy the problem and ensure that access is available for all.
Permits to utilize disabled parking spots are available through the office of the newly-created Panamanian Secretary of Disability (Secretaria Nacional de Discapacidad), who has been charged with “Managing and implementing the policy of social inclusion of people with disabilities and their families, and promoting a change of attitude, respect for human rights and equal opportunities.” The secretary’s office, called SENADIS, is located in Ancon near Panama City (http://www.senadis.gob.pa/index.php).
According to the US Embassy, the following documents are required when requesting a disabled parking permit in Panama:
- Two passport-sized photos
- A copy of your passport or a Panamanian ID, and
- A doctor’s letter, signed and stamped by the physician and addressed to “To Whom It May Concern,” which describes your diagnosis, your symptoms, and any medical assistance devices you require (like a walker or a wheelchair).
These documents are submitted along with your permit application. The application also requires information about the car you will be driving, including the make and model, VIN number and license plate number.
Spaces reserved for disabled parking are usually available only at larger lots and complexes in the cities. Through the work of SENADIS, however, Panama is gradually moving forward and becoming more accessible.