Unheard voices of the disabled in disaster reduction
Rendi A. Witular
The Jakarta Post
Arief Wicaksono joyfully performed a pantomime act on what deaf people should do during an earthquake. Jumping and waving his hands back and forth, Arief demonstrated the 'duck, cover and hold' method of personal protection.
Along with his two other disabled colleagues, Stephanie Kusuma and Martha Adiningtyas, Arief performed before participants of the Fourth Session of the Global Platform conference on disaster risk reduction hosted by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) in Geneva on Wednesday.
The three were representing Indonesia in a campaign effort to raise awareness among disabled people regarding disaster risk reduction.
'Its important for those with disabilities to have access to information about disaster risk reduction and to protect and evacuate themselves during a disaster,' said Arief, through a sign language interpreter, recently.
Arief, who is struggling to enroll at a university, is also actively engaged in the Yogyakarta-based Deaf Art Community, which aims to help disabled people expand their capacity in communication, education and art performance.
His expertise has brought him to disaster-prone areas such as Ciamis, West Java, to teach the disabled there how to protect themselves during a disaster using visual displays and pantomime performances.
Disabled people may be more at risk during disaster due to cognitive, intellectual or physical impairments. These factors may limit the ability of a person with a disability to access information and/or to act on that information.
A handicapped person, for example, may experience no difficulty relating to general disaster risk reduction information. However, that same individual may face severe barriers in trying to protect themselves during an earthquake.
The World Report on Disability in 2011 found that 15-20 percent of the world's population was living with a disability. Following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, an estimated 200,000 people were left disabled, according to the UN.
'In times of disaster, disabled people are at significant risk. This risk is increased through limited access to information and services that many of us take for granted,' said ASB Indonesia director Alex Robinson. ASB is Germany's oldest and largest social welfare organization.
'Through this forum (the Global Platform) we are raising the awareness of the international community to play greater role in the issue,' he said.
Since 2007, ASB has been involved in raising disaster risk reduction awareness in 62 special needs schools and 120 inclusive schools, which partly accept disabled people.
The organization, which helped Arief, Stephanie and Martha attend the Global Platform conference,
also works with 6,000 primary schools in Yogyakarta, Klaten in Central Java, Ciamis, and Nias in North Sumatra.
ASB, along with other organizations, is part of the Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DIDRRN) for Asia and the Pacific, which was launched at the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Yogyakarta in October 2012.
The network aims is to secure the active participation and meaningful contribution of disabled persons in disaster risk reduction policy and practice post-2015. It works closely with the UNISDR.
As a follow up to the declaration, disability is being recognized for the first time as a key and important concern at the Global Platform on disaster risk reduction.
The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015, which become the basis for the Global Platform conference, references vulnerability and highlights the increased vulnerability of certain groups such as children and women.
Reference to disability, however, is poor. Despite the HFA's focus on risk, the framework does not recognize the increased risk that disabled people face nor the positive contribution that they can make within disaster risk reduction measures.
One of The Global Platform conference's is aims is to assess the implementation progress of the HFA, which was set up after the tsunami in December 2004. Some 168 countries signed a 10-year plan to make the world safer. The countries have now progressed on to draft the next accord after HFA ends in 2015 during the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan in 2015.
Plans to accommodate the needs of disabled persons are likely to be accommodated in the conference as a high-level dialogue has issued a communiquÃ© that underscored the need to support the most vulnerable, such as children, women and disabled people, to build their resilience in disasters.
'We're hoping that there will be a commitment from the international community to work toward ensuring the active participation of disabled persons in disaster risk reduction policy and practice,' said Nurul Andriani, a handicap activist from the Yogyakarta-based Disabled People and Child Advocacy Center (Sapda), who also represented Indonesia at the forum.