In accordance with the Disability Day, 3 December 2016, our GoLive enthusiast Indra Kiling and Gracia Girsang write about progress and challenges of the Indonesian Disability Law after its enactment earlier this year.
Six months past the enactment of Law No.8/2016 on Persons with Disabilities, Indonesia is still trying to keep up. Can Indonesia celebrate the next month’s Disability day on 3 December by presenting actual progress and implementation of the Law? Or this effort, once regarded as a significant movement, still falls short of creating an ideal environment for persons with disabilities.
Derivative regulations, socialization activities and establishing the National Disabilities Commission are key activities to implement the law up until now. However, these initiatives are considered sluggish in producing progress and the recent 800 billion rupiahs cut in Ministry of Social Services’ budget further restrain follow-up efforts.
This state of affairs is an indication that there is a crisis in the government’s commitment and understanding to disability issue, precipitating the delay in completing and implementing the law. It is hardly a new problem, considering the enforcement of another second priority law like Mental Health Law No.18/2014 is still unsatisfactory hitherto, with only one derivative regulation completed until October 2016.
Also read: Questioning our dignity in mental health
As a means to put the Disability Law into effect, both central and local government has a lot of tasks to be done swiftly in multiple sectors. According to recent doctoral research done by Indra Kiling (2016) regarding programs for persons with disabilities in Indonesia, there are at least three feasible approaches that can expedite the implementation of Disability Law.
First, as underlined by many stakeholders before, accurate data on persons with disabilities are desperately needed. Programs could not be formulated and applied effectively in the absence of a good set of data. In this matter, apart from collecting data in village level, early screening for young children is essential. Early screening not only serves as an intervention that helps to anticipate severe or multiple disabilities, it also supplies data to further improve services for persons with disabilities.
Yet, the use of early screening in community level is still somewhat lacking in Indonesia. Indra’s research found that even though health workers are equipped with the developmental screening checklist, it is often useless since the health workers don’t really grasp on the subject of disability and inclusive service.
Solving the problem with the old fashioned way, training provision for active health workers is simply not enough for the long-term scope. Universities with health courses should insert disability and inclusive health services topic in their courses’ curriculum. This move will complement article 44 in the disability law that regulates similar approach in education courses. Conceivably, the knowledge gained in higher education could help health workers in conducting disability-friendly health services, including early detection.
Second, among people with disabilities, persons with mental disability are the most discriminated and disadvantaged group. The fact that most of them could not advocate for themselves, unlike persons with physical disability, is worsening the phenomenon. Conditions like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and depression can actually be prevented and treated with adequate mental health services before it becomes a disabling illness. Alas, mental health services in Indonesia, like other developing countries is under performed.
According to Basic Health Survey in 2013, only 11.9 percent persons with emotional mental disorder received recent treatment, while 38.2 per cent persons with the severe mental disorder have not received any treatment. This lack of performance can be easily solved with making the most out of existing resources.
Indonesia actually has a growing mental health workforce that could be employed to empower mental health services. Jakarta has provided an exemplary service with “Healthy Jakarta” program that involves psychologists to provide services in the community health centres. The benefit of this program is that it does not depend solely on the rare and expensive services from psychiatrists, instead, it utilises the underused but ever growing psychologists’ services. This could also simultaneously reduce the rate of mental disabilities, suicides, drug abuses, and domestic violence. We believe that best practice should not only be found in the capital but also proliferated to other provinces as well.
Last but not least, as a pillar of the contemporary disability movement, inclusive education often clashes with special education. A study from Stephen Meyers, a professor at the University of Washington found that in Nicaragua, posits that an established special school often competes with new inclusive schools for students. Parents there felt that their children benefitted more in the special school. In the end that special school was forced to cease their activities by local government backed up by an international non-government organisation (NGO) that supported inclusive education.
This conflict has the potential to occur also in Indonesia, a nation that is trying to improve the inclusive education system and a home of many disability-focused international NGOs who supported inclusive education. Education service providers must always prioritise the right of persons with disabilities to choose which school is best for them. The government, like regulated in Disability Law, must provide both inclusive education and special education services, and support them without playing favourites to any side. Moreover, future derivative regulations should ensure equal implementation of both education systems throughout the nation.
The International Day of persons with disabilities – 3 December – should be used as a reminder and a boost to gain (another) momentum to reinforce the Disability Law in Indonesia. We should not wait for the next Paralympics games or worst, regional elections to harvest attention. We must act now.
Indra Yohanes Kiling is a LPDP scholarship awardee, member of GoLive Indonesia and also a Ph.D candidate in Psychology, at The University of Adelaide. His research focuses on finding best practices to support persons with disabilities in Indonesia.
Gracia Girsang is an Australia Awards awardee and a Ph.D Candidate at the Institute of International Trade, Faculty of the Professions, the University of Adelaide under the Australia Awards Scholarship. Gracia is also the project coordinator of GoLive Indonesia, a University of Adelaide-based project aiming at promoting discussion in various topics.