How do persons with disabilities deal with disasters? Persons with disabilities are considered vulnerable and many of them have to deal with challenges when disaster occurs, especially when they want to continue living towards independence during the post-disaster recovery period. This challenge is exacerbated by the view of the society who often underestimate the capabilities of persons with disabilities. This leaves them with limited opportunities to fill strategic positions in policy making at the local level.
Erti Suhastri, is a 36-year-old community leader, mother, and person with disability from Ciputri Village. Aware of the challenges experienced by persons with disabilities, Erti is committed to fight for equality and to increase awareness on the importance of inclusiveness. Erti is an example of a person with disabilities who becomes a leader in the village. He was chosen as the coordinator of the evacuation camp in Ciputri Village in Pacet sub-district of Cianjur District. She continues to provide information services and distribute aid amid her limitations.
Erti was born with a physical disability, yet it does not stop her from contributing to her community. Elected as the coordinator of the evacuation post in Ciputri, Erti demonstrates her ability to manage the evacuation post. She and her team manage the evacuation post through provision of information services to the local community and the coordination of aid distribution in the area. Occasionally she experienced access difficulties, because she had to walk farther afield to get and distribute aid. Erti brings great enthusiasm to the role, and in the midst of post-disaster she seeks help and support for her neighbors living in the location where she and her family had fled.
Erti mentioned that initially, accessing assistance from the government for people with disabilities was a long process and quite difficult, but is now becoming easier. She hopes the government will prioritize persons with disability and provide more support in the future.
Ciputri Village is one of the villages in Cianjur District with around 120 persons with disabilities. Sadly though, many families choose not to include family members with disabilities on their family card due to embarrassment and social stigma. There is still discrimination towards persons with disabilities, especially in rural villages. Many community members do not understand the importance of increasing capacity, accessibility, and inclusion for people with disabilities.
As one of the villages where the YAKKUM Emergency Unit conducts humanitarian interventions, Ciputri Village has become a focus area for aid distribution and mapping of the most at-risk groups, including the older people and persons with disability. Erti as head of the evacuation center contributes to conducting assessments and distributing assistance to persons with disabilities in her village. Erti has become the focal person that connected YEU volunteers with beneficiaries. Erti herself has a desire to educate people in her village about disabilities so they can overcome their challenges and be empowered. Erti is also working towards breaking the stigma associated with disability and encouraging persons with disability to become more independent.