Insights and Analysis

Social Media Ignites Disability Movement in Indonesia

December 9, 2015

By Angie Bexley

This is part of a special series for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

In Indonesia, stigma around people with disabilities often comes from those closest to them. In many cases, families hide away their disabled family members, communities shun them, and government services and policies as well as job opportunities are out of reach. While this community – estimated at 23 percent of the population – faces an uphill battle, we’re beginning to see signs that a new disability movement is forming and is leveraging social media to connect people with disabilities across the Indonesian archipelago.

New operating systems with built-in features like screen-readers and text-to-speech software enable blind and deaf people to access on-line platforms and give the community a megaphone to demand greater inclusion. There is also a growing network of NGOs and community-based organizations that are working on disability rights who are increasingly making themselves heard on social media.

Kerjabilitas is the first online career service for people with disabilities in Indonesia. Developed by the NGO Saujana, it has already placed 150 people with disabilities in jobs since it was launched last June. SOLIDER is an online information exchange for the community, and serves as a platform to get involved in advocacy for disability rights. Accessible Indonesia uses Twitter to provide information about disability-friendly public access to buildings and transport.

The movement has also inspired individuals across Indonesia to share their stories through social media. This month, disability activist Sri Lestari (at 23 a motorcycle accident left her paralyzed from the chest down) completed her third overland journey in a motorized wheelchair through Sulawesi (and previously through Java and Sumatra) which she tracked on Facebook. By breaking down the barriers and social stigma, Sri is motivating disabled people to end self-exclusion practices, to leave their homes, and get engaged in their communities, despite the barriers.

Now, a Government of Indonesia poverty alleviation initiative – Program Peduli – is harnessing the power of social media to promote social inclusion. Since The Asia Foundation began working on the program in partnership with the Indonesian government in 2014, it has established partnerships with six civil society organizations and community-based organizations working on disability issues and 70 other partners who work with groups of citizens who face stigma and discrimination, the program’s social media platform serves three objectives: It shapes a shared identity and promotes discourse, cultivated through the hashtag “Inclusive Indonesia” or #IDInklusi; strengthens networks by offering partners a shared platform to promote their activities; and provides an important tool for persons with disabilities and others to communicate their everyday realities where they might otherwise go unheard.

The origin of all shared content such as photos, text, and short films on Peduli’s Facebook page, which reached over a million users in the last year, originates from organizations that work directly with excluded communities. Here are a few inspiring examples of posts from three organizations working on disability issues over the last year, which reflect a diverse range of everyday acts of inclusion.


Promoting an inclusive media. Stigma and discrimination faced by people with disabilities is often reinforced through the media. Here, as part of an Inclusive Media Journalism workshop, a team of disabled journalists interview a public official in Sleman, Yogyakarta. (Peduli Partner/Image credit: SIGAB)


Small business assistance creates social acceptance. Small businesses offer a pathway out of poverty, and break down stereotypes about PWD capabilities. A local government representative visits a small kiosk in Bone, Sulawesi Selatan, to learn what disabled small businesses owners need in terms of assistance. (Peduli Partner/Image credit: Yayasan Swadaya Mitra Bangsa (YASMIB)


Diplomatic ties build capacity. Some of the world’s best examples of disability inclusion are found in Australia. Inclusive development is also reflected as an Aid Investment Priority in Indonesia. During a recent field visit to Yogyakarta, the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, HE Paul Grigson, learned about a model of Inclusive Village Development. He also interviewed with RadioSIGAB, a local radio station focused on disability issues. (Peduli Partner/Image credit: SIGAB)


Using the arts to showcase people with disabilities. Costume designer for PWD, Siti Farida, won “best costume” in a municipal Fashion Carnival in Jember, East Java, that helped to foster respect for her disabled model. (Peduli Partner: SAPDA Image credit: Program Peduli)


Determined to be independent. Stigma often limits opportunities for people with disabilities. A furniture shop in Bantul, Yogyakarta, helps expand job opportunities and inclusion by hiring disabled and non-disabled people who work side by side. (Peduli Partner: SIGAB Image credit: Wien Tanpaoo)


Seeking representation in community decisions. People with disabilities are often excluded from forums which make important decisions about how village funds will be used for development. In this training in Yogyakarta, village volunteers learn about an “Inclusive Village” model of development which promotes disability-friendly infrastructure and participation of persons with disabilities in village-level decision making. (Peduli Partner/image credit: SIGAB)

Angie Bexley is a deputy director for The Asia Foundation in Indonesia. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Asia Foundation’s support to Indonesian Civil Society and Community-Based Organizations working on disability issues is implemented in partnership with the Australian Government. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.


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