Report from Indonesia: Improved access to COVID-19 information required for people living with a disability

By Tara P. Sani (Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia/Alzheimer Indonesia).

Indonesia’s deaf and hard of hearing community has sent an open letter to President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) that criticises the Indonesian Government for the lack of access to information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak for people living with a disability. Of especial concern was the absence of sign language interpreters to translate information on the global health crisis.

In response, the Government has provided sign language interpreters and Indonesian subtitles for televised COVID-19 updates.

Although this issue was raised by the deaf and hard of hearing community, it is one that potentially affects all people living with disabilities in Indonesia. Therefore, it is important that the Government ensures information about COVID-19 and social distancing is accessible to everyone.

This includes vulnerable people such as children, prison inmates, people in remote areas, people with learning difficulties and people living with a disability – including those living with dementia.

Without equal access to information, vulnerable people face delayed access to diagnosis and management and will be at a much higher risk of contracting the disease.

References from the media:

  1. News article reporting the open letter to the President from the deaf community

Main messages:

In the letter, dated 16 March 2020, the community praised the efforts of the government to spread information about COVID-19 through press conferences, protocols and other measures to tackle the pandemic. However, since the announcement of the first two COVID-19 positive cases in Indonesia, the central government has not been providing sign language interpreters or Indonesian subtitles in press conferences. The letter demanded the government ensures information is accessible for people living with disability by:

  • Following the guidance for sign language interpreter service provision issued by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI)
  • Issuing an order that all communications and information from the central and regional governments, private sector and media be provided with sign language interpreters and Indonesian subtitles according to WFD’s recommendation
  • Ensuring all formats of information regarding the global COVID-19 pandemic does not contradict WFD and WASLI recommendations or policies protecting the right of people living with a disability
  • Issuing an order for all communication and information media to contact the Pusat Layanan Juru Bahasa Isyarat Indonesia / Centre of Indonesian Sign Language Interpreter Service (contact details provided in the article)

The constitution and legislation protecting the rights of accessibility for people with disability in Indonesia:

  • The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, Article 28F (Access to Information)
  • Legislation no. 19/2011 on the ratification of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 21 (Freedom of Expression and Opinion, and Access to Information)
  • Legislation No. 8/2016 on Persons Living with Disabilities – Article 19 on the Rights to Public Services; Article 20 on the Rights of Protection from Disasters; and Article 24 on Freedom of Expression, Communication, and Access to Information

2. News article on the open letter and interview with Norman Yulian, Chairman of West Java Chapter of the Indonesian Association for Persons with Disability:

Main messages:

  • Summary of the open letter
  • Government’s advice for social distancing has not yet been communicated via organisation or community networks for people living with a disability.

3. News article on the lack of accessible COVID-19 information for people living with a disability

Main messages:

  • Concerns about misleading hoaxes surrounding COVID-19, calls for the urgent need of accessible official information from the government
  • Angkie Yudistia, member of the President’s Special Staff and the Presidential Spokesperson, responded with an apology that the government had not provided a sign language interpreter during every statement regarding the outbreak. Yudistia stated the hope that the deaf and hard of hearing community can now also follow information from reputable online news media outlets. She also uploaded the transcript of the President’s statement dated 15 March 2020.

4. News article on the provision of sign language interpreter

Main messages:

  • On 17 March 2020, Yudistia confirmed that sign language interpreters will be available during all televised COVID-19 updates
  • There has been feedback that the box showing the sign language interpreter was blocked by a news ticker banner on some television channels. Yudistia received the feedback and promised to pass it to the media.

Suggested citation: Sani T (2020) Report from Indonesia: Improved access to COVID-19 information required for people living with a disability.  Article in, International Long-Term Care Policy Network, CPEC-LSE. Available at

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