By: Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat and Dikanaya Tarahita

In a vast country embracing thousands of ethnicities, cultures, languages, and customs from 254 million citizens, equality in Indonesia has become a central issue. Another gap, however, is not between the rich and the poor or ethnic groups but between those who have disabilities and those who don’t. Indonesia’s 21 million disabled are still marginalized.

President Joko Widodo and his vice president, Jusuk Kalla made no less than 54 promises during the election including fighting for the right to education, health and decent work for the disabled. The flagship program was the establishment of Kartu Indonesia Pintar (Indonesian Smart Card) and Kartu Indonesia Sehat (Indonesian Health Card). Those two cards were intended to enable all Indonesians to obtain a 12-year basic education and access to quality health services.

Unfortunately, the needs of the disabled haven’t been addressed in either card. Rather, they are aimed at the general poor. KIP is targeted at school-age children, with Rp600,000 (U$44.35) per year for elementary students, Rp700,000 for junior and senior high school students. The implementation of these funds doesn’t conflict with School Operational Assistance (BOS) funds, as KIP is mandated to meet students’ personal needs such as book purchases and transportation costs.

The amount is certainly not enough to finance the needs of disabled students whose requirements are far greater than those of non-disabled students. In addition to requiring funds for purchasing and maintaining their medical assistance needs, many also require special books that are not sold commercially. Moreover, the parents of those enrolled in inclusive schools will be charged for the cost of hiring a Special Companion Teacher (GPK) for their child with a minimum salary of Rp1 million per month.

Indeed, to accommodate the needs of the disabled, the government also provides a Social Assistance Wealth Card for Heavy Disability (ASPDB) from the special state budget for people with severe disabilities. Funds worth Rp1.2 million per year can be disbursed every four months. Since 2015, 22,000 people with severe disabilities have received the ASPDB card.

The disadvantages of the above programs and policies are that assistance to the fulfillment of the right of persons with disabilities is still only piecemeal. As with KIPs not specifically targeting disabled students, those eligible to receive the ASPDB program are also limited by criteria permitted by the Department of Social Affairs, while those with moderate and mild disabilities are not yet given attention.

The implementation of the government’s social program is still focused on the fulfillment of rights for the poor. Although a disabled person, or a disabled person in a household may have a job with standard wages, the data indicates that the disabled belongs to the “potentially poor” category.

A Feeble Law

In an attempt to fulfill Jokowi’s promises for the disabled community, in April 2016 the government officially passed Law No. 8 on Persons with Disabilities, giving the country for the first time a detailed law explaining the rights of persons with disabilities and the obligations of various parties to fulfill those rights.

Article 10 of the Act states that all persons with disabilities are entitled to receive quality education in educational units of all types, paths and levels of education in an inclusive and special manner. In order to support the mandate, every educational institution is required to establish a Disability Service Unit. The unit is set forth in Article 10 and Article 42 paragraph 3 and 4 for Higher Education.

At the same time, Article 50 states that each employer is required to provide decent accommodation and facilities accessible to the workforce of persons with disabilities. The regulation is coupled with government policies that require local and State-Owned Enterprises (BUMN and BUMDs) to employ disabled at least 2 percent of the total number of employees. Private companies are subject to a 1 percent quota.

Although on paper this law has become legally binding, what occurs in the field still does not reflect the mandate. For educational issues, as we have previously discussed, the imperfect curriculum for the disabled, the heavy burden of special-needs teachers, the unpreparedness of public schools to become inclusive schools, general teacher training on limited handling, as well as the high cost to be borne by parents for their children remain widespread.

Similarly on employment, although the Ministry of Labor requires quotas for public institutions and provides incentives for private companies to employ the disabled, efforts have been limited and many agencies haven’t bothered to implement the regulation. In fact, civil servant positions for the disabled haven’t been filled, partly because the test system has not been able to accommodate the needs of the participants with disabilities. The test is still considered discriminatory because 40 percent of the questions use pictures, making it impossible for many blind candidates to answer even though they have been provided assistants who help them to read and write.

National Disability Commission

To eliminate all discriminatory policies against people with disabilities, enactment of laws and regulations aren’t enough. Rules that are implemented without supervisors will only be systems that will continue to uphold discrimination.

Law No. 8 contains rules on the establishment of a non-structural and independent National Commission on Disability (KND) to carry out monitoring, evaluation and advocacy on the exercise of respect, protection and fulfillment of the rights of persons with disabilities in articles 131 and 134. Details of the organization and the working order and membership are regulated later through the issuance of ‘Presidential Regulation’. But a year after the law was passed there has been no indication from President Jokowi to issue a regulation on the formation of a KND, or national commission on the disabled.

Hundreds from a joint community demonstrated their disappointment in front of the Presidential Palace in June 2017. They demanded follow-up to plan the establishment of a commission immediately in accordance with the mandate that states that KND should have been established no later than three years after the law was passed.

The hope is that when the commission is created, individuals with disabilities eventually will have special institutions where they know exactly where, to whom, and how they can file a complaint. Nowadays, with various problems still occurring in almost all sectors ranging from health, education, to work, the disabled are still confused, alone, and left behind because they have no representation to accommodate their voices.

Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat is a doctoral candidate at the University of Manchester. Dikanaya Tarahita is an Indonesian  freelance writer. They are regular contributors to Asia Sentinel.