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Jakarta Post

US, Indonesia raising awareness of equal opportunity for the deaf

  • Liza Yosephine

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, January 5, 2016   /  10:30 am
US, Indonesia raising awareness of equal opportunity for the deaf Listen to them: An activist in costume communicates through sign language during International Disability Day on Jl. Pahlawan, Semarang, Central Java, on Dec. 13. Activists are raising awareness to fight for equality for people with disabilities, urging the government to provide equal work opportunities and facilities for the group. (Antara/Aditya Pradana Putra) (Antara/Aditya Pradana Putra)

Listen to them: An activist in costume communicates through sign language during International Disability Day on Jl. Pahlawan, Semarang, Central Java, on Dec. 13. Activists are raising awareness to fight for equality for people with disabilities, urging the government to provide equal work opportunities and facilities for the group. (Antara/Aditya Pradana Putra)

The US and Indonesia are collaborating through an exchange program to raise awareness to fight discrimination and limitations placed on the deaf.

The US Embassy in Jakarta on Monday invited 18 young deaf professionals, consisting of 10 Americans and eight Indonesians, on a cultural exchange program.

The delegates are currently in Indonesia and will meet with the Social Affairs Ministry and participate in a number of activities across the country.

'€œWhat we'€™re trying to do is give an example of equal opportunity accommodation for all people, which on the US side is under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA], where all accommodations are supposed to be equal,'€ US Embassy deputy chief of mission Brian McFeeters said on Monday during a gathering at the US ambassador'€™s official residence in Jakarta.

He said the program aimed to provide direct exchange between the communities on both sides for the participants to learn from as they were all professionals.

American participants are currently visiting Indonesia and, together with the group from Indonesia, they will travel around Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bali. The group of Indonesian participants will also visit the US in June.

Annisa Rahmania, chairman of Young Voices Indonesia, a group of youth with disabilities, said it was unfortunate that Indonesia still lacked a law such as the ADA. The organization carries out efforts to erase stigmas associated with disability.

Adhi Kusuma Bharotorres, a sign language researcher and linguist from the University of Indonesia, stressed the importance of sign language research in the country.

"It can advocate awareness and acceptance of sign language as a communicative language and not just dismissed as pantomime or gestures," he said.

According to a guide from the US Department of Justice, the ADA which was adopted by the US Congress in 1990, ensures equal opportunity for people with disabilities.

Leah Katz-Hernandez, who was born deaf, currently works as the West Wing receptionist in the White House. Leah started as an intern and was treated equally with all the other hearing applicants and other people with disability in competing for a position at the White House.

Full commitment

The White House was fully committed to full accessibility, she said, adding that as part of her job, they provide her with interpreters. Her office also provides a video phone so she can make phone calls with sign language.  

'€œSo anything I need to do my job, they provide it,'€ she said.

Meanwhile, Michael Stein is a deaf American lawyer who focuses on disability rights and human rights for all people, with many of his clients being deaf.

'€œIt'€™s actually a powerful experience for them because they often struggle with getting communication access, especially to the legal system. And when we go in to court, the court system provides interpreters,'€ he said.

Dr. Shazia Siddiqi, a deaf doctor in the US, said that she depended on interpreters in her career but modern technology had also helped her at her job.

Citing an example from one of the most common doctoral procedures, she said there were tools she used that enabled her to see, rather than hear, a person'€™s heartbeat.

'€œOn my iPhone, I have an app that allows me to listen to the heart and listen to the lungs and visually display what'€™s happening so that I can diagnose through that vision in the display rather than auditory display,'€ she said. (rin)

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