Jakarta’s Crusader for The Blind Won’t Back Down
Activist Jaka Ahmad is blind, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing much of anything.
“I am a restless person,” he said.
Jaka has made it his mission to raise awareness about people with disabilities. It all began in 1997 when he was a student at Sahid University in Jakarta, where he worked with several organizations for the disabled.
Fifteen years later, he is the first blind member of the Jakarta Transportation Council. “Now that I’m inside [the system], I can make sure that our aspirations are really received,” Jaka told the Jakarta Globe recently.
Jaka was born with weak eyesight. His vision gradually declined until he lost it completely when he was 27. Jaka used to help his older sister, who is also blind, with her organization for blind women.
He grew up in a well-educated family and was always told to be active and stand up on his own. So losing his vision didn’t stop him from meeting new people and helping others.
Jaka stopped working for nonprofits for the disabled between 2000 to 2004. During that time, he worked in marketing for an insurance company.
But after leaving the company, Jaka resumed his work with NGOs that help the blind. He now runs his own leadership training business.
Jaka joined the 15-member transportation council after he was approved by the Association of Blind People (Pertuni). Jaka said not all the council’s members are aware of the importance of providing facilities that are friendly to disabled people. When he first came in, “maybe only one member had the same perspective as I did. But slowly, I kept injecting the spirit. Now, four members have the same awareness,” he said.
What he needed was time, he said. Jaka said he hoped people would have a better understanding about the issues affecting the disabled. He added that he dreamed of the day when disabled people had better access to the city’s transportation system, one that catered to that specific population’s needs.
Policymaking is be one of the ways to make this happen, he said. He recently gave some suggestions on facilities needed to access the planned mass rapid transit network, such as elevations, and ramps.
“Sometimes you need to tell someone more than once or twice to convey the message,” he said. “This is what I’m doing, and I need full support from the public and disabled people.”