In 2007, three young lecturers from the State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga (UIN-Suka) in Yogyakarta returned to Indonesia from Canada with degrees in social work from McGill University and established the Centre for Disability Studies and Services at UIN-Suka. It was the first centre of its kind in Indonesia. In response to a UIN-Suka request for an expert in disabilities to help them develop the Centre, an AWB volunteer, Marion Steff, spent a year at the UIN (August 2009 to July 2010).
The expert chosen by AWB was excellent. Marion…worked very hard for the centre…inspiring the students to develop the centre and to create linkages with other institutions. She is also good in negotiating and communicating with UIN leaders…. It had a positive impact on the development of the center and the university. UIN stakeholders became more aware of “difable” issues and more open to prospective difabled students. -Jarot Wayudi, Director of Human Resource Management, UIN Sunan Kalijaga
About the Centre
UIN-Suka, a public university, plays a leading role in promoting social justice in the Muslim community—87% of the population in Indonesia—which makes the Centre a model for inclusive education and gives it the potential for a far-reaching impact. It plays a leadership role in changing attitudes at local and national levels in Indonesia, where disability can still be seen as a burden. The staff of the Centre, along with Steff, conducted outreach activities at local schools and in community centers, lobbied government ministries, and created links with local NGOs working with persons with disabilities.
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Steff and Andayani Safwan, the Director of the Centre, with the active support of the administration, the students and staff, have been successful in creating a “difable” friendly campus” for the 34 visually impaired students presently enrolled at the university. During the year Steff was there, one of her Indonesian colleagues said “the Centre came alive.” The visually impaired students were provided with special computers, a Braille centre, and English and computer courses. Many students at the university were inspired to volunteer to provide individual assistance for the students with disabilities. The Director of the Centre and Steff gave courses for the volunteers and for professors at the university in order to raise awareness and to develop their skills in providing inclusive education. Through Steff’s link with Handicap International, the students received assertiveness training to help them advocate for their needs.
Creating links with the “super groups,” such as the United Nation’s Enable, is a strategy that has been used in the West to bring about change. Marking the International Day of People with Disabilities on December 3, 2009 with a special issue of the Difable News, the Centre’s monthly newsletter, that included articles from university disability centers around the world, as well as a full day of activities on the UIN-Suka campus, created important links for the University. The Centre’s celebrations of the Day were cited on the UN’s Enable website and that in turn led to a research project for the World Bank on disability and Indonesian universities (June 2010). The Rector of UIN-Suka, Prof. Dr. M. Amin Abdullah and Steff also made a presentation at the 7th International Conference on Higher Education and Disability held in Austria in July, 2010, linking the Indonesian Centre with this international network.
The goal of AWB’s work is to contribute to sustainable development. The Centre is a pioneer in this area and is playing a leadership role in creating an inclusive campus for students with disabilities. The Centre itself provides a model that is effective for advocacy in Indonesia and for supporting the work of others interested in disability. The Centre also provides a partner for linkages with local, national and international organizations working to create equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.
* The term “difable” refers to people with different abilities, another strategy to change perceptions and promote inclusion.