The Jakarta Post
Cucu Saidah and her husband Faisal Rusdi often visit shopping malls in Jakarta. Both of them use wheelchairs for mobility but are not bound to the chairs. However, their mobility is limited by the lack of disabled access in such buildings.
'We like to visit shopping malls, not only to buy things but to watch movies or meet friends,' said Cucu Saidah, who is an initiator of the Jakarta Barrier Free Tourism campaign. 'But it is difficult as not many malls are well equipped with disabled facilities.'
At present, Jakarta has more than 170 shopping centers, one of the highest concentrations in the world. High-end malls like Grand Indonesia, Plaza Senayan and Gandaria City have dedicated facilities for its disabled visitors.
Plaza Indonesia has restrooms for the disabled in its lobby basement floor as well as its third, fourth and fifth floors. One visitor, Josephine Lin, said that she often visited Plaza Indonesia with her mother. 'It is one of the few malls in Jakarta accessible for visitors in wheelchairs. The drop-off area is wheelchair-friendly, and the restroom for the disabled is decent.'
However, Cucu argues that there is room for improvement.
'The visual and audio facilities need to be improved. Many of the elevators do not have a voice that tells you if the door is being opened or closed or the level number,' she said.
President of Wisma Cheshire ' a residential, vocational training program for adult men and women with mobility disabilities ' Petty Elliott is aware that the vast majority of the disabled community suffer from a lack of facilities. The situation of people with disabilities depends on their economic situation and social background. The struggle for people with disabilities begins the moment they step outside their homes.
'Our center [Wisma Cheshire] is not located in the city center, which makes it difficult for people to access. Public transportation is very bad, and not many people can afford to travel to our office for our services,' said Petty.
Cucu, who also works as a Technical Coordinator for Disability Inclusion at the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Justice, argues that society's attitude toward disabled people made their life more difficult.
'On many occasions, I have seen disabled toilets locked or in use. The cleaners look down on us when we want to use the toilet,' she said.
Social stigma toward disability is the biggest challenge for the disabled community.
'On many occasions, I have encountered situations where a security guard would not allow [Wisma Cheshire] residents to enter the building via the main entrance. They do not realize that disabled people have equal rights and high potential,' said Petty.
Under Indonesian law, employers must hire at least one disabled person for every 100 employees. However, this rule is rarely enforced.
'Physical barriers and biased attitudes cannot be productive for the government and they hinder the country's development and economic growth,' said Cucu, who has been campaigning for and promoting better lives for the disabled community.
'Recently, there have been improvements and the [government] has made moves toward better disabled accessibility, but they do not understand.
'There should be very clear instructions from the President and Cabinet ministers. Talking about disability should be a social affair, and it has to be integrated into the ministries.'
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