Having Our Voice Heard: What are the Barriers for Peoples with Disabilities?

Visiting several projects and different people with disabilities was a touching experience.

Tens of thousands of Indonesians with disabilities spend their whole lives trapped in their homes, with little or no support from institutions. Worse, the stigma from society often prevents them from feeling dignity or self-worth.

This week I will share several blog posts about the realities of peoples with disabilities but also the hope stemming from grassroots movements and local heroes who are shattering barriers to improve the situation for others with disabilities.

Addressing the Barriers

With close friends who are also people with disabilities, I know there are many mental and physical barriers imposed on them by an able-bodied society. One of the project coordinators explained that there are often 3 main barriers to disabilities inclusion:

  1. Environmental
  2. Attitudinal (attitude)
  3. Institutional
Shirts that read ‘Move for Disability’ and ‘Disability is not an Inability’

While the first is quite apparent, relating to the physical environment that inhibits or provides access to the people with disabilities. I didn’t need anyone to tell me, but I could see how most of the places I was visit were very, very poorly equipt in terms of accessibility.

The second one is much less tangible referring to the attitudinal barriers such as stigmatisation and discrimination. This is perhaps one of the most challenging ones to overcome – it may be easier to make a ramp but how do you shift the thinking of a community, a society.

The last are institutional barriers, which may refer to activities related to policies or laws that fail to address or discriminate against people with disabilities.

Showing the parking for peoples with disabilities

The project coordinator interesting bought up a final barrier that he had realised during his work for people with disabilities.

This fourth barrier does not stem from the external world but it is an internal barrier. He was trying to say that a personal lack of confidence or a personal feeling of guilt and shame (although imposed by attitudinal barriers) are part of many barriers.

In one way or another, all barriers were addressed by the people with disabilities. It was not just one that was evident, but the connection of all three that really created walls to be integrated and accepted by society.

Having Our Voice Heard

Creating an inclusive society is not only about people with disabilities but also other groups of excluded peoples including women and people of extreme poverty.

Here I tie together two separate but related stories of how people are working at a grassroots level to make changes in society. By the word ‘grassroots’ I am really referring to the change that is happening in the village to the district, the district to the region and the hope that it continues to spread from the “bottom-up” and affect policies and actions at the highest level.

Village head shows me the village policies in braille

The village of Plembutan has made inspiring changes to create an inclusive society. Village funds are used to help persons with disabilities and provide equal rights. I spoke with some of the women who are part of ongoing training workshops that support skills-development and enables them to work and be independent.

After an insightful conversation with the village head (who is also a woman!), she showed us the office building that was equipt for people with disabilities – including accessible parking, toilet, and fixtures.

Showing me the handrail for peoples with disabilities

What I learned is that although at the national level, in 2016 rights for peoples with disabilities were recognized, the actions of the policy do not trickle down to on a regional, district, or village level yet.

Humanitarian Inclusion (Handicap International), with the support of the EU, assists if at the grassroots or local level that works to make changes that are much more readily felt by the peoples with disabilities.

Change is Happening

District meeting where budget support for peoples with disabilities is announced

In the afternoon, I visited an annual district meeting where leaders of the villages gathered together to discuss the policies and budget for the upcoming year. With this meeting happening only once a year, it felt like fate to be able to attend.

In the meeting, the rights of people with disabilities were recognised and budget support for creating a more disability-inclusive society was acknowledged. This moment was incredibly moving.

The man in the photo is the advocate who really pushed this action into motion. He told me about the shame and stigma he first felt when we got into an accident, now he is fighting for increased rights so that other people will not have to go through what he went through for over 20 years. He believes in the power of music and art as a part of the healing, and he will continue to champion an inclusive society for those with disabilities.

  • Christian kabanda

    It is so interesting ,but i never hear about this before ,i wish icould be part of those 5 young people ,


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