How Konek Indonesia raises awareness about the importance of inclusivity in the disabled community
Equal treatment rings hollow for many people with disabilities in Indonesia. Sometimes, we perceive people with disabilities as victims or objects of pity. Conversely, we talk about people with disabilities who are inspirational simply because they experience disability. Little do we know that we are no different. If everyone gets the right kind of environmental opportunities, we can all achieve many great things.
Meet Marthella Rivera Roidatua.
Marthella completed her master's degree at the University of Birmingham, UK, later returned to her homeland in Indonesia. Marthella completed her master's degree at the University of Birmingham, UK, later returned to her homeland in Indonesia. After finishing her studies in 2013, she spent one year in a remote area of Westeast South Maluku Regency, in Adodo Molu village, teaching elementary students for ‘Indonesia Mengajar’ Program. During her tenure as a teacher, she found 3 of her students were having disabilities, yet left untreated because of the lack of knowledge of the local teacher and the parents, and inadequate learning materials for their special needs. The lack of proper care for people with disabilities faced by many children in the rural areas of Indonesia. In some cases, children with disabilities in the village dealing with parents who think that their children are just not smart enough, or not study well enough.
At that time, because there was no internet service inside the village, Marthella would go back and forth to the city to find more information about their disabilities and how to make their lives better by giving them the proper tools to live in society. She realized that there was not enough awareness and appropriate teaching techniques for people with disabilities, especially those from the isolated areas of Indonesia. She was determined to change that condition. After she spent a year teaching in Adodo Mulu village, she finally found her call.
After she returned home to Jakarta, Indonesia's capital city, Marthella worked as an Expert at the Ministry of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia. Doing what she does best, her task is to compile Government Regulations and the Master Plan for Disability Inclusive Development for residents of Indonesia.
Working closely with government officials and people with disabilities, Marthella was intrigued by the idea of inclusiveness in disabilities that still seems foreign in Indonesian society.
Loosely 'translated' as equal opportunity, inclusivity is full participation and equitable access for all. An inclusive definition of disability means extending good things and fairness to more people, regardless of their physical or even mental abilities.
Intended to raise inclusivity in disability, Marthella starts a social startup with the sole purpose of connecting the disabled community and the non-disabled community through the right kind of information, participation, and collaboration.
Aiming to remove barriers such as physical, communicational, and attitudinal that hamper the ability of a person with disabilities to have full participation in society, Marthella established an organization called the Indonesian Connections Inclusive (Konekin). Konekin functions as a liaison or hub that brings together people with and without disabilities in various exciting collaborations.
Marthella and her team in Konekin created fun monthly events that gather people with and without disabilities to share knowledge and understanding of inclusive culture, whether through discussions, concerts, or other fun activities.
Many disability organizations and communities are divided through their various disabilities. For instance, there are deaf community, blind community, or developmental and intellectual disabilities community establishing well in Indonesia. But those communities are segregated through its various disabilities. As a result, there are not many extensive dialogues and projects to unite people with disabilities in Indonesia. This has also resulted in 'less exposed' disabilities being less prioritized.
Konekin tries to break down barriers with the knowledge and understanding needed to welcome an inclusive culture. Not only share the knowledge between people with disabilities and non-disabilities but to connect all the people between various disabilities as well.
Konekin also advocates the idea that all people should take action to accommodate people with a physical, mental, cognitive, and/or developmental disability and build public facilities that are accessible for all range of disabilities and limitations as basic human rights.
Discrimination against people with disabilities in a lot of aspects in public facilities happens everywhere, even in Indonesia's capital city, Jakarta. This happens due to the lack of public awareness about the fundamental rights of people with or without disabilities.
However, we still have a long way to go before people with disabilities aren't just seen as charity cases but as individuals who have the same right to be treated just like any other people.
But again, Konekin was not built to hand out special privileges for a selected few. They have made dialogues, concerts, and have even lobbied policymakers to do what is right and build better access for everyone.
Though it is very easy to get caught up with the semantics of disabilities issue, focus on building fundamental rights for all, by not singling out every single person.
A story about Marthella Rivera Roidatua and Indonesian Connections Inclusive (Konekin). Interviewed and written by Apsy Soerjodibroto for #PerempuanSeries.