The Jakarta Post
As a bus filled with badminton para athletes stopped by the athlete entrance gate of Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) sports complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on Monday afternoon, Ricky, 22, a volunteer for the venue’s transportation division, and seven of his colleagues, approached the bus and stood by the doors with a warm smile.
“May I help you?” Ricky asked one of the athletes on the bus, who was in a wheelchair.
The athlete then nodded as a sign of agreement and then Ricky carefully assisted him by sliding out the wheelchair ramp from the bus to the ground. After thanking him, the athlete then proceeded to navigate his wheelchair to the athletes lounge by himself, without any more assistance.
“Always ask first” is the most important thing volunteers have to understand, no matter how much they want to quickly help out the athletes.
“We have been taught to ask first before offering any assistance. Unnecessary assistance might hurt their feelings. They don’t want to be pitied, and from what I can see they are all really strong and independent athletes,” Ricky told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Working the morning shift from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., Ricky and other volunteers have to stand by the gate ready for hundreds of badminton athletes coming to the stadium for training or competing.
For the 2018 Para Games, the Indonesian Asian Para Games Organizing Committee (INAPGOC) has deployed 8,000 volunteers who have been trained to serve athletes with disabilities. From the 8,000 volunteers, 300 have been trained as volunteer coordinators by the Social Affairs Ministry. These coordinators were then assigned to train the rest of the volunteers.
“These volunteers have different characteristic from their Asian Games counterparts. The volunteers must learn that displaying too much empathy could be counterproductive,” the ministry’s general director of social rehabilitation, Edi Suharto, told the Post recently.
Every volunteer has been given training in basic sign language skills and other technical skills to help people with various kinds of disability.
Atikah Safirah, 22, another volunteer who was assigned to the badminton tribune venue, said she had learned a lot from being a volunteer.
“I learned that people with disabilities are able to do many things, and they are strong, independent and smart, just like us all,” she said.
Many athletes with disabilities have praised volunteers and the facilities at the Para Games, which have helped them to access locations around venues.
“The restroom areas, the buses, the volunteers are good. I can easily go and use everything. This is a very friendly place for people with disabilities. The volunteers are always on standby and ready,” Japan’s Kouhei Kobayashi, 39, a shuttler competing in the men’s single wheelchair category, said.
For disabled spectators, the facilities and venues have made it easier to access venues.
Kristin Prasetyaningtyas, a teacher at Dwituna Rawinala, a school for the disabled in East Jakarta who accompanied nine of his students to visit the badminton match on Sunday, said they really enjoyed the games.
“The volunteers are great, but maybe they need to speak more clearly and articulately so my visually impaired students would know what was happening on the field,” Kristin said.