I make this reflection by drawing from our previous events organised by Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies
(ICSR) and its working partners on 22 August 2019, in Surakarta, Indonesia, entitled “Mayors’ Symposium and Interface with Civil Society on Designing Sustainable, Just and Smart Urban Living
”. We invited six city mayors and regents from different parts of Indonesia to attend and have their pitch on special, focused programs that address relevant issues related to the theme. A number of experts in urban architecture, faith in the cities, gender sensitive planning and disability also present at the forum. One of the issues with ethical urgency that have been highlighted is the right of people with “disabilities” to enjoy decent life and access to education, especially to higher education.
For long, people with disabilities in Indonesia, and probably in many other parts of the world have been denied access to many important resources for education, economic opportunities, leisure parks, and houses of worship. In the past twenty years, new awareness about inclusive community, that demand inclusive policy and opportunity grew steadily among learned, urban communities in Indonesia. A sense of ethical awareness drives the emergence of willingness to do more and create special policy for these disabled people.
Universitas Islam Negeri
(UIN/State Islamic University) Sunan Kalijaga, Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana
, two of the founding universities of ICRS -which is a working partner of Globethics.net in Indonesia
, have been among the first, pioneering Indonesian universities to admit, and provide better access and learning facilities as well as support for ‘diffable’ (differently abled) students. At the moment, the two universities have added new architectural facilities for these students and establish Centre that focus on addressing the need and issues encountered and experienced by diffable students. In UIN Sunan Kalijaga, the Centre is named PLD (Pusat Layanan Diffable/Diffable Services Centre).
In Indonesian context, the term diffability has evolved quite significantly, a resonance of different views and awareness as well as responses to the conditions. For many decades, diffable people were addressed as defective people (orang cacat); their defectiveness was perceived as punishments from ancestors, from Deity for parents and family who might have transgress social or cultural or religious norms. Because of such conception the way to response the situation was usually awkward oriented -the person affected was kept at home, and not given opportunities other children have. The government and community at large also did not put much effort, or policy and budget to cater to their special needs to grow decently.
In the 1990s, new awareness about these ‘defective’ people emerged; in which defectiveness was conceived as nothing, or at least less to do with the curse of ancestor or Deity, but it is also very much related to nutrition, diet, medical conditions, as well as social, political problems. The term then changed officially from ‘defective people’ to ‘people with disability’. They are seen as disabled, as unable to do things that others can, no longer seen as the cursed ones. At this stage, the government and community at large began to create a few regulations and policies and to allocate a budget to cater for the different needs of people with disability. UIN Sunan Kalijaga, for instance, built new ramps, toilets that are disabled friendly, a Centre, conduct regular training for sign language, and for student and faculty volunteers. However, much of the approaches have been kind of charity acts, rather than strategic political acts.
In the past few years, the Disabled Services Centre of UIN Sunan Kalijaga began campaigning for a new paradigm in looking and addressing the issues. The conceptual term has been changed from defective, to disabled, and now to diffable (differently abled). Although in official documents of Indonesian government and United Nations still adopt the term of people with disability, UIN Sunan Kalijaga moves forward to be proposing and using diffable people/students. This is based on the fact that in most cases it was US who made them disabled, who made them unable to do things because we expect them to do things the way that we do them. We do not consider different abilities and qualities they have that we don’t as valuable and valid.
I have been experiencing such a thing that makes me more aware of this different ability with my students. Clearly, they ‘see’ things not through eyes like me, rather through voices, and smells. Hence, even though their eyes were blind, they have acquired different senses and an ability to see, that is different from us. Other students they converse, and exchange jokes through sign language,that I do not know. So, they do communication like us, however in a different way. Hence, we are just having different ability.
Further thoughtful, ethical question on this is, who makes them disabled? Emerging answers say it is US who makes them disabled because we expect them to accomplish things and tasks as we do, not as they are able to do so. We have wanted them to see through eyes like US, to converse through mouthed languages like US, to walk on two feet like US and so on. US here, could mean the general population, community and government as the main rights bearer for the citizens under their concern. Ethically speaking, we have denied their rights for a decent life and access to public facilities because they have different ways of doing things from us. We felt ‘bothered’ and ‘burdened’ to adapt to their ways to see, converse, and walk; we didn’t provide or spend enough funds to build public facilities as much as we did for other people; and therefor it is US who have disabled them.
Recently, UIN Sunan Kalijaga is working on promoting a new paradigm to address these issues, that is making the change from being a disabling university and community to becoming an enabling one.