Empowerment, Inclusion, and Disabling Barriers

Blog, Project, Stories | May 23, 2024

This piece was authored by ACE Fellow Janine Cruzet. Janine works for Women with Disabilities Taking Actions on our Reproductive Health and Human Rights. 

 

Image description: ACE Fellow, Janine Cruzet, is smiling at the camera. 

Imagine walking through the lively streets of the city, the sights and sounds of urban life surrounding you. In the midst of this dynamic atmosphere, there’s an ordinary government building—a place where I found myself one day, driven by a fierce determination to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities.

As I made my way through the corridors, a mix of excitement and nervousness filled me. Despite my visual impairment, my trusty cane guided me through the maze of desks and bustling hallways. Every sound—the buzz of conversations, the shuffle of papers, the click of keyboards—painted a vivid picture of the busy environment.

Choosing to wear a casual yet bold pink dress, with a hint of perfume and a swipe of lipstick, wasn’t just about looking nice. It was a deliberate choice, aimed at shattering the misconception that persons with disabilities are somehow disconnected from the world around them.

There’s this misguided notion that we lack knowledge about fashion, about life and about the world in general. Many assume we’re untidy or pitiful, but I wanted to demonstrate that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Engaging with government officials and employees, I felt the weight of my mission.

It was like pushing against a solid wall, with their nods sometimes hiding their true thoughts. But fuelled by stories of real change and a deep commitment to promoting disability rights, I pressed on with determination.

Slowly but surely, the tide began to turn.

Some leaned in, genuinely interested in what I had to say. It was a glimmer of hope between the sea of indifference—a sign that change was possible.

Fast forward several months, I had the privilege of chatting via a virtual meeting with two incredible advocates, Kriselda Bisda and Architect Armand Eustaquio. Kriselda, who has a visual impairment, was championing disability inclusion in human resources. On the other hand, Architect Armand, who doesn’t have disabilities, was advocating for accessible infrastructure. Despite their diverse backgrounds, they were united by a shared mission: inclusion. They stressed the importance of building trust and resilience, even when faced with bureaucratic obstacles.

In their journey toward advocacy, they encountered numerous challenges—from navigating bureaucratic hurdles to challenging entrenched biases. Yet, their steadfast determination pushed them forward, serving as an example of hope.

Their experiences may resonate with countless other advocates. While our paths may differ, the barriers we face in achieving disability inclusion are often similar. It’s through collective effort that we pave the way for progress.

 

Image description: ACE fellows take part in a role play on giving inclusion advice (Jakarta, August 2023).

 

Advocacy alone isn’t enough; we must also ensure that government agencies understand the needs of persons with disabilities and listen to their voices. Together, we break barriers, defy stereotypes and cultivate a society where every voice matters. Negotiating with stakeholders isn’t easy. It demands courage, patience, expertise, and a wide network of connections. But the rewards are worth it.

With the support of government employees, our organization launched a disability awareness and sensitivity training initiative—a journey that transformed perceptions and attitudes. The response from employees was inspiring. Filled with renewed passion, they pledged to create a more inclusive workplace, embracing diversity and accessibility.

We’re at the dawn of a new era of inclusion.

Each step forward brings us closer to a world where every voice, including those of persons with disabilities, is heard. As we march onward, driven by passion and determination, we inch closer to realizing this vision of a truly inclusive society.

 

The ACE project is funded by CBM Australia and Equity Trustees.

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