Turning ‘disability’ into ‘ability’: opportunities to promote disability inclusive development in Indonesia

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Before joining the World Bank, I worked as an urban designer and often provided advice on how the design of proposed developments could be more accessible for people with disabilities. Sadly, many developers tend to consider disability inclusion as an afterthought, meaning they incurred additional costs to retrofit poor designs, or worse, inadvertently restricted access for certain people.

Such oversights create cities that are not ‘friendly’ for people of all abilities. Disasters can further exacerbate such challenges, such as through inaccessible evacuation routes or information, poorly­‑designed shelters, loss of assistive aids, and limited opportunities to rebuild livelihoods.

An estimated 12% of Indonesians have a disability and this figure is expected to rise. The needs of Indonesia’s ageing population, with 15% expected to be over 65 years by 2035, will certainly increase the risk of disability. The country’s growing disaster and climate change vulnerability can also cause permanent injuries and impairments.

In recent years, many Indonesian cities have taken significant steps towards adopting disability-inclusive practices to address these challenges. In 2017, fourteen cities signed the Charter of the Network of Indonesian Mayors for Inclusive Cities in Indonesia committing to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities. Solo, Surabaya, and Bandung seek to address gender and disability issues during the country’s annual participatory Musrenbang (Musyawarah Perencanaan Pembangunan) development planning and budgeting process, following international trends in promoting inclusive development planning, including in Australia, Gambia and Uganda.

Given the growing demand, more investments are needed to build up human capital, allowing everyone to have an equal chance to succeed. The World Bank is committed to investing more in disability inclusion. As part of building back better in the aftermath of disasters, one of these commitments is that by 2020, all Bank-financed public facilities in post‑disaster reconstruction projects will be disability inclusive – where in Indonesia it will be supported through the GFDRR grant.

As Indonesia and other countries advance their agendas on disability-inclusive development, there are many opportunities to build back more inclusively after disasters:  

  1. Leverage disability-disaggregated data for inclusive interventions
    Data can help guide the design of development and disaster recovery projects. A wealth of data is being collected on the needs of people with different abilities following the Central Sulawesi disaster, and authorities have engaged early with disability organizations and people with disabilities. This can bring many benefits to the affected populations.
  2. Adopt a ‘placemaking’ approach with universal design principles
    Under a ‘placemaking’ approach, city-makers work collaboratively with communities including people of all abilities, genders, and ages, when designing public spaces to accommodate their needs and strengthen links between diverse population groups. Cities that are rebuilding after disasters could facilitate design ‘charrettes’ (collaborative design workshops) with disability and other groups to promote inclusive universal design practices.
  3. Improve building compliance with accessibility standards
    While technical standards and guidelines on accessibility exist in Indonesia, compliance poses challenges. Accessibility audits and assessments by people with disabilities could be streamlined in the building permit issuance process to identify practical design solutions. Seismic retrofitting programs, such as those supported by the World Bank’s Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project, could address seismic risk mitigation other standards including safety and disability access.
  4. Develop disability-inclusive community preparedness systems
    Early warning and weather forecasting systems, as well as evacuation signage for safe routes and shelters, should provide essential information in alternate formats. Emergency spaces and shelters under the Lushan Earthquake Reconstruction and Risk Reduction Project in China are being designed to accommodate people with all abilities. Similarly, community-level evacuation plans should support swift access to assistive aids, for example walking canes or hearing aids.
  5. Promote disability-inclusive practices among emergency responders and service providers
    Several local disaster management agencies in Indonesia have established a disability inclusion service unit. Others could learn from this approach. Targeted capacity-building among emergency responders and humanitarian service providers could help to better address the specific needs of people with disabilities and their families during the emergency response and evacuation.
  6. Develop an adaptive and inclusive social protection framework
    Indonesia offers a variety of social assistance programs for poor and vulnerable households. With the growing incidence of disasters in Indonesia, an adaptive social protection system that responds to such shocks and accommodates the needs of people with disabilities is needed. This could include targeted cash assistance programs; cash‑for‑work opportunities in recovery programs for people with all abilities; and disability‑inclusive livelihoods rebuilding activities.

By designing accessible cities and disaster risk management systems, all people will have the ability to build disaster resilience and participate fully in economic opportunities. The benefits to society far outweigh the minor cost to consider accessible design early in the development planning process.

Do you have good practices on disability-inclusive development to suggest? Please share in the comment section below as we’d like to hear from you.
In October 2018, the Ministry of National Development Planning convened a workshop with the World Bank
CBM Australia , inviting government agencies and community organizations to share lessons learned from disability-inclusive post-disaster recovery programs in Indonesia, Japan, Haiti, and Nepal.
Photograph: World Bank

Read more:


Jian Vun

Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes

Disaster Risk Management Specialist

Jolanta Kryspin-Watson

Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist and Regional Coordinator, East Asia and the Pacific

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