Aid for the disabled has long been an intractable issue in Indonesia. Services and facilities are minimal, with the budget incapable of providing welfare pensions, according to a study by Inside Indonesia, formerly known as the Indonesian Resources and Information Program. Funds are inadequate to meet needs in health, education, employment and public access. There are few legal or social pressures to promote a non-discriminatory stance.
Even though many have argued that the government lacks willingness to act and to create policies for the disabled populations, one fundamental problem underlies all of this – the lack of data. According to a 2165 study by Statistics Indonesia, there are perhaps 10.21 individuals over the age of 2 years in the country – 4.45 percent of the population – who fall into the disabled category.
That has meant the government has been unable to understand the real situation experienced by the disabled and the degree of severity of their marginalization and the discrimination against them.
The Current Situation
There hasn’t been sufficiently comprehensive research on disabilities organized officially by the government. The last census by the National Bureau of Statistics, carried out in 2010, only captured very limited information.
The collected evidence only contained data on the number of disabled individuals living in each province, the number of households with family members with disabilities, and the types of disability possessed by the respondents.
Moreover, these data are no longer reliable to design new policies for the current problems faced by the disabled because in the past seven years the situation has changed considerably.
Although in 2013 the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund assisted the Indonesian government to design more comprehensive census questionnaires by including question variables that would provide a more useful picture of the social and economic situation of the disabled communities, the census itself has been postponed until now due to budget constraint.
Second, Indonesia does not yet have an official institution focusing on disability issues. Each ministry has its own policies and rules. There is no inter-institutional policy integration to create an equally implemented policy.
Thirdly, research grants with disability topics are rarely allocated to universities, research institutions or NGOs. Therefore, the government has limited comprehensive data to recognize the condition of the disabled. In fact, the government has yet collaborated sufficiently with these institutions to obtain complete data so that policies to be formulated can truly be effective and well-targeted.
The intention and willingness of the government to continue to improve its policies will not be effective without first having comprehensive data capable of mapping the needs of the disabled. When the government does not have sufficient information, regulations and policies will remain ineffective.
For example, the government’s move to give quotas for the disabled to become civil servants is a useful initiative. However, the quota has only been 10 percent filled because this policy has not been set up in detail and implemented correctly. This is evident from the obscurity of the procedure for applicants during the entrance test. For instance many of the questions in the entrance exam are with pictures, thus difficult for the blind, Indonesia’s biggest disability sector.
Another recent misinformed policy is to ban an online transportation booking system that operates in several major cities in Indonesia. Public transport facilities are inadequate for the disabled. As a result, people with physical limitations are less mobile. Online transportation booking, arguably, is very helpful for disabled people because it is safer, offers a variety of additional features that are disabled-friendly, and the price is much cheaper than the offline mode. In this case, the action taken by the government to prohibit its operation is not paying attention with the needs of community with disabilities.
These are only few of many examples of how policies are not based on the real conditions on the ground. It is clear that without understanding the real situation, it will remain difficult for the government to create appropriate policies to create a disabled-friendly Indonesia.
What To Do
Therefore, the first step that should be initiated by the government is to capture correct and all-around information through both population censuses and research that are able to provide an overview of the real condition of people with disabilities and what accommodations are most needed by them.
This can be done, first of all, by establishing an official institution that deals with the disabled community in Indonesia. Such an institution is vital not only to ensure the well-being of people with disabilities, but most importantly, to conduct comprehensive periodical research on the situation.
This institution would not work alone. Collaboration with national research institutions such as LIPI and Bappenas, as well as with academic institutions and social organizations is also essential. The government should also prepare to allocate some research funds and grants for research related to disability issues.
Periodic research on disability issues in Indonesia will provide up to date data for the government and policy makers. These data would provide a clear picture of the existing real conditions and can form the basis of important recommendations for the government in formulating pro-disabled policies and rules.
Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat is a doctoral candidate at the University of Manchester. Dikanaya Tarahita is a freelance writer from Indonesia and studied HR Management and Industrial Relations at the University of Manchester.