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An Open Letter from the Disabled Community to Anies Baswedan

Dear Pak Anies Baswedan,

Jakarta has made its choice. Its people have completed their obligation as an important pawn in a democratic society by participating in elections and making a political choice. The trust has been pinned and the responsibility has been placed on the shoulders of those who pledged their promises for a better Jakarta during the past several months of campaigning.

A year ago, you and your deputy, Pak Sandiaga Uno, were probably nobody to the fishermen, apartment residents, investors, contractors, and others. But today, you are the first to be sought, praised, criticised, embraced, and held accountable for the lives of our city’s 8 million inhabitants, for at least the next five years.

Indeed, when the outcome of the election is determined, nothing more can be done, either by the supporters or opponents. All we can do is accept the results with open minds and arms, and give full support to the chosen governor and vice governor.

You and your deputy are now the captains who decide in which direction a ship called Jakarta, with all its complexities, will be sailed. Storms that come may take the form of pros and cons from various circles in your effort to realise the housing program with 0% down payment. Steep cliffs, which may potentially hit the periphery of the ship, may manifest as problems arising from the issue of reclamation and improvement of living standards for the people of Jakarta.

There is no option to turn back, the ship has already started on its forward course. The passengers have handed over the reins of leadership to you and Mr. Uno. If the constituents truly believe their voices are for the best, wisest, and most trustworthy leaders, then they should not be afraid because Jakarta will remain their city. And that is how a good leader should be; the extension of hands and representing the millions of voters who have yearned for change, peace, harmony, and justice.

No exception is made for the disabled. A minority whose rights have been marginalised even after the leadership of this metropolitan city has changed repeatedly. We are frequently alpha that Jakarta is also home to thousands of disabled residents whose voices are often ignored. In fact, policies relating to the disabled were not brought up frequently during the election campaign. It is important to remember that access to education, jobs, and other social services remains a major issue for Jakarta’s disabled population. Only a few have succeeded in completing their education to university level. Many are still unable to access education at all, as many institutions lack the facilities to accommodate their needs.

Even though efforts towards inclusive education have been exerted, they are still not widespread. Consequently, many have no option but to go to special schools (SLB), which often have no proper curriculum.

The problem of education has led to another issue; employment. The disabled are often denied jobs as they are perceived as incapable, and many employers often cite the lack of experience in accepting disabled employees. This problem has caused numerous disabled people to be less financially stable than their counterparts.

Of equal importance are the limited public facilities available to the disabled. Something as simple as the provision of wheelchair ramps is not seen frequently in the city’s public places, such as bus stops, government offices, markets, and other sites. Today many disabled people complain about the lack of facilities to support their daily life and mobility in Jakarta. Pak Anies, we were happy that on your campaign website you brought up the issue of disability as your major program. You plan to improve the current policies that focus solely on two aspects; namely, to provide equal employment opportunities to the disabled and the development of sports for those with disabilities. You plan to improve public facilities by constructing ramps and lifts, audio guidance, as well as pedestrian paths for the disabled. You also plan to create public services that are more disability friendly, such as educating public servants on how to treat disabled, translators in public forums and other actions.

Another important task for you is to realise your ‘Pendidikan Bersahabat’ program. We would love to see the disabled community accessing education without being sidelined due to their disabilities, and to be facilitated to achieve their dreams.

With regard to the issue of employment, you also aim to create more jobs for the disabled and appropriate training and services for these employees. As a regional leader, you could start by setting an example for companies, business entities, and other organisations by opening employment opportunities for the disabled in the Jakarta municipality. This matter is something we are looking forward to as we would like to live independently and provide a financial source for our family, just like everybody else.

All these plans, Pak Anies, are something for which we disabled have high hopes. Perhaps these programs were the reasons why some disabled voters voted for you. Nonetheless, these remain as promises. Promises that we have heard repeatedly from many previous Jakarta leaders, even though practical steps appear to falter.

Pak Anies, we have begun watching and wait for you to realise your campaign promises. We would like to see you make a genuine effort to achieve forward-looking social transformations. It is now time for you to put your words into actions to realise your promises. We, the disabled community, would love to see everyone with the spirit and audacity to begin taking substantive steps for a more-disabled friendly Jakarta.

Yours sincerely,
The disabled community