Sat, 02 Dec 2000

Disabilities should not hinder rights

JAKARTA (JP): Physical accessibility in public life for the country's six million disabled persons is needed to improve their welfare, Minister of Health and Social Welfare Achmad Sujudi said on Friday.

"Anyone can become disabled or crippled and being handicapped should not hinder a persons rights in their daily lives," Sujudi told a media briefing on the commemoration of International Day for Disabled Persons which will fall on Sunday.

Indonesians should be proud of having two outstanding individuals, President Abdurrahman Wahid and First Lady Sinta Nuriyah -- who happen to be disabled persons -- leading this country, the minister said.

"The two are extraordinary ... brave people demonstrating to the world that being disabled is not an obstacle to achieving outstanding contributions," Sujudi said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the number of disabled people in a country is about 10 percent of the total population.

The minister further cited examples of how limited access and facilities obstructed the activities of disabled people.

"So far only Gambir Railway Station has facilities for disabled persons. Other public places have yet to provide them," Sujudi said.

"There are many people who still discriminate against disabled people," Sularso, Executive Director of the Indonesia National Board for Social Welfare (DNIKS), said.

He cited the fact that disabled people still have limited opportunity to work, although there was a regulation guaranteeing equal treatment.

Presidential Decree No. 43/1999 on the Coordinating Institution on Disabled People's Social Welfare Improvement, stipulates that there should be one disabled employee for every hundred employees in a company.

"If a company violates the regulation, it has to pay a Rp 100 million (US$10,638) fine. But there is no implementation of the law," said Mrs. Sugeng Supari of International Rehabilitation, a nongovernmental organization.

The country currently has 14 houses for disabled people and three social rehabilitation centers. The management of 23 other institutions has been transferred to regional authorities in accordance with the regional autonomy.

Pudji Astuti, deputy chairperson for Social Rehabilitation and Services at the National Social Welfare Agency (BKSN) said that annually, only 73,000 disabled people in Indonesia received proper treatment.

There are also a total of 4,572 community business groups set up to help the disabled, with mobile social service units in 26 provinces.

Settlements and facilities for lepers are available in eight provinces.

The official commemoration of International Day for Disabled Persons will be marked with the declaration of Piagam Millennium III by First Lady Sinta Nuriyah at the Presidential Palace on Sunday, containing an urgent call for the government and international community to recognize and put into reality the rights of disabled people.

The declaration will be handed over to the President.

The United Nations marked the international day with a theme of "Making Information Technology Work for All".

"In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that 'everyone has the right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community' and 'to share in scientific advancement and its benefits'," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a written message.

"Unless Information Technology is truly accessible for all, the potential for information to empower all countries and all people will not be realized. We must break through the barriers that stand between technology and the users -- whether technical, psychological, physical or financial," Annan stated. (04/edt)