Although progress is slow, some institutions have taken major steps. Brawijaya University in Malang and Sunan Kalijaga UIN in Yogyakarta, for example, have pioneered centres for disability studies and services that provide educational assistance for students. They started by building accessible infrastructure to help students with physical disabilities, and have recruited volunteers to assist students with disabilities in class, and run training programs to build awareness among educators.
Change may also be starting to occur within the government. This year, it made efforts(link is external) to ensure disabled applicants were not excluded from entrance exams, and reminded exam organisers they could not refuse disabled applicants. At a recent conference(link is external) on higher education for people with disability organised by Australian Catholic University and Sunan Kalijaga UIN in Yogyakarta, the director general of Islamic higher education, Professor Amsal Bakhtiar, said his office planned to reform policies on accessible higher education and start introducing inclusive education at Islamic institutions. Despite the strong emphasis on social justice in Islam, and the pioneering work of Sunan Kalijaga UIN, the reality is that Islamic higher education institutions have historically been among the worst performing institutions in this field.
Using Islamic texts to justify inclusive policies could be a vital first step in changing discriminatory attitudes. But a lot more will be needed. Sunan Kalijaga UIN, for example, said that to improve its services it needs more support from the ministry, including better training for staff, funds for accessible infrastructure, and adapted academic resources. None of that comes cheap but it has to happen. Access to education for people with disability is a right, not something only available to those very determined students lucky enough to have committed and supportive families.
Author: Dr Dina Afrianty
Original Article is published by Indonesia at Melbourne