In Indonesia, people with disabilities have limited access to education, health care and employment.
Indonesia is home to millions of disabled people, even though there is limited available data and uncertain data accuracy—for example, figures reported by the World Health Organization and the government show a considerable difference. Undeniably, the limited data also signifies the lack of attention made toward those with disabilities.
Negative perceptions that the disabled are a burden on society and would not be able to live independently are intolerant sentiments that should be dispelled. Yet they are still prevalent across the country. The stigma that is laden with exclusivity bias is frequently echoed by the majority—thereby extinguishing justice and social equality for minority groups.
“Different” and Left Behind
The difference in economic and social status among the disabled and non-disabled in Indonesia highlights the failure of the government, private sectors and overall society to build bridges and embrace the minority whose rights are being neglected. It is almost as if these individuals are marginalized and discriminated by their own fate. They are poor and further impoverished by policymakers who are intolerant of these minorities.
In a recent study, the University of Indonesia found that the poverty rate for households with disabilities stands at 13.3%—approximately 3% higher than households that have no disabled individuals. The figure also indicates that the poverty rate among disabled households is 50% higher in rural households in comparison to urban ones.
The same research demonstrated that nearly 70% of disabled children do not go to school, and if they do, they only have 66.8% chance of finishing primary education. It was also discovered that people with disabilities in Indonesia only have a 64.9% chance of getting a job.
Indeed, the vast gap that exists between those with disabilities and those without is actually created not only because of the physical limitations of the disabled, but also the immature mindsets of the public and their inability to embrace diversity. However, it is often because these people look “different” and have distinctive mannerisms that the non-disabled refer to their actions as irregular and abnormal.
To make Indonesia a more civilized and humane nation, the intolerance and negative perception that have shackled those with disabilities will not recede if we do not readjust our thinking. We should not let disabled people’s determination to be on par with others turn into tears of despair as their voices continue to be ignored—nearly seven decades after Indonesia gained independence.
Several ways for the disabled to improve their quality of life have begun to emerge in Indonesia, mainly with the opening of inclusive education to widen accessibility to high-quality learning. Although higher education can only be accessed by a small portion of the disabled, there is an increasing number of institutions that offer courses to upgrade their skills and expertise, which help equip the disabled with sufficient competences to engage competitively in the labor market.
For example, Permata Bank—one of Indonesia’s largest banks—offers a training session called “Computer Speaks” for its disabled employees. Tokopedia, BPJS and LingkarSosial also hold trainings for the disabled that aim to promote entrepreneurship. Another company, CSR Allianze, runs a financial management program for the disabled in Yogyakarta. The program, entitled “Empowered,” aims to offer financial literacy and entrepreneurship courses to disabled people.
Nonetheless, it is important that the participation of the disabled in the employment industry is accompanied by the availability of accessible jobs. The opening of the employment market to the disabled in Indonesia requires continuous effort by various parties across the country’s public and private sectors to make the disabled community self-sufficient and independent.
Unfortunately, many employers remain unwilling to open their doors to those with disabilities due to a lack of facilities and experience in accommodating those with different abilities. Pressure to allocate funds to activities that can recoup the investment in the short term has forced many employers to create policies based on the principles of efficiency and effectiveness.
In reality, despite the advancement of technology and the variety of tools to assist the disabled to function like their non-disabled counterparts, the government and many employers, both public and private, still consider the provision of facilities for the disabled as an expensive and no- or low-returns investment. But, in truth, what is expensive is humanity and tolerance displayed toward them.
Redefining Human Resources
If a unified commitment is pursued by employers to integrate and provide equitable access for the disabled, it could open the door to the workforce for those with special needs. That commitment should begin with designing a recruitment and selection process that contains alpha discrimination.
The first page of application forms should include a disability section that can be used to identify whether or not certain candidates have disabilities and require assistance in completing the form and in written tests. In addition, human resource departments should appoint a special division to deal with disabled applicants so they know where and to whom they should speak.
Even though several companies in Indonesia such as Alfamart and Carrefour have introduced opportunities for disabled applicants, those vacancies are, in reality, only opened for some positions and not all. Meanwhile, for those seeking government jobs, the recruitment process has not been accommodating enough to potential employees who are disabled. On most government application forms, there is no section to identify or declare one’s disability. Including a “Disability Section” is important in the initial stage of the recruitment process, in order to identify potential employees who need special accommodations or for those whose needs cannot be met.
By identifying this issue at the start of the selection process, the recruitment committee can respond quickly and provide assistance to the relevant candidates. Employers should also consider making the application process more disabled friendly through the following ways: prioritizing those in wheelchairs or with other physical limitations to take the test on the ground floor; providing an aide who can help read questions and write down answers for candidates who are unable to do so; offering facilities such as a computer, a laptop or other writing tools; and allocating additional time to complete application tests.
Meanwhile, to make recruitment tests more accommodating in general, questions with pictures and illustrations should be minimized. This is because such questions would pose a difficulty for those with visual impairments and aides might struggle to explain them clearly. Moreover, in certain circumstances, written tests could be replaced with oral examinations.
When disabled candidates finally become employees, efforts to integrate them should continue. Employers should provide assistance to disabled workers such as providing specific training programs suited to their conditions and job descriptions; training the non-disabled workers on how to deal with their disabled counterparts and create a disabled-friendly working environment; creating a special division dedicated to overseeing the condition of the disabled workers and a point for them to report instances of discrimination; and upgrading facilities that cater to the needs of disabled workers, such as ramps, parking spaces, elevators and toilets.
The above suggestions are not the only steps that should be taken by employers in accommodating disabled employees. There are many more ways that could be considered. Nonetheless, we hope these recommendations will lower the level of discrimination they might face in the workplace. Although these steps may require significant effort, the disabled in Indonesia will remain far-removed from independence and self-sufficiency if actions are not taken to create a more diverse workforce in the country.
*[This article was updated on April 9, 2017.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: Tatomm