Thu, 11 Dec 2003

Disabled demand rights on public access, education, jobs Dewi Santoso The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The government has ignored the rights of the disabled despite regulations assuring them of public access, Indonesian Disabled Foundation (YPCI) chairman Siswadi said Wednesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the International Disabled Day gathering in Jakarta, Siswadi said the government's poor treatment of the disabled was evidenced by the disabled's lack of access to public places, education and job opportunities.

Government Regulation No. 43/1998 stipulates that by the end of 2003, all government buildings must provide access for the disabled.

"But it remains a big question as to whether the regulation will work," Siswadi said. "The lack of access has made it difficult for the disabled to use public transportation and buildings, and to follow religious rituals."

Education was another grave concern as only 4 percent of the disabled population enjoyed a proper education, he said.

"Based on an Asia-Pacific agreement, 75 percent of the disabled should receive proper education. It means that we'll need 600 years to fulfill the requirements if only we can increase the figure to 10 percent per year.".

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that the disabled account for 10 percent of the total population in Indonesia. The Ministry of Health, however, puts its figure as half that of the WHO's estimate, while the Ministry of Social Affairs says the disabled represent only 3.11 percent. President Megawati Soekarnoputri recently claimed that only 1.7 percent of the total population were disabled.

Siswadi said most of the disabled had had their career opportunities restricted.

"The government has set a 1 percent quota in the workplace for the disabled. But that figure remains far from attainable as the unemployment rate overall is still high," he said.

In the political field, Law No. 12/2003 on elections secures the right of the disabled to participate in the upcoming polls, he said.

"But we'll keep on fighting to make sure that the elections will indeed provide access for the disabled."

Minister of Social Affairs Bachtiar Chamsyah admitted the government's failure to satisfy the demands of the disabled.

"We are still unable to thoroughly comply with the law, but we hope that in the coming years, as the economy recovers, we'll get everything back on the right track," he said.

The head of the Election Committee for the Disabled, Ariani Abdul Mun'im, said the government had shown concern by providing the disabled with charity instead of protecting their rights.

"In the previous elections, the disabled did not have the chance to exercise their right to vote. But now, there's already access to polling booths for them," said Ariani, who is blind.

Now the law must be implemented, she said.

Held in the Indonesia in Miniature Park (TMII), the gathering was marked by award presentations to Mary Lisiano, a disabled woman, for her lifetime work and efforts in fighting for disabled rights; Siti Adiningrum W. Adiwoso for her work in providing dental care for the disabled; and four institutions, including Mitra Netra Foundation, garment company PT Mataram Tunggal Garmen, and Agung At-tin Mosque, for their efforts in providing access for disabled worshipers.

Attendants also watched a Bali dance performance involving 15 disabled people and viewed exhibitions by disabled artists, including from a man whose arms and legs are impaired.