Cucu Saidah’s work as a disability advocate and inclusion advisor has taken her from her homeland Indonesia to Japan, the US, Australia and Norway. But, as a person with a disability who sees barriers to social and economic participation every day, she believes her work will never be complete.
“My passion is accessibility and disability inclusion, and how I can use my experience and knowledge to make an impact on people,” says Cucu.
Since founding the Bandung Independent Living Center in West Java 17 years ago, Cucu has advised a range of organisations on disability inclusion both as an independent consultant and in-house. Now working as a Disability Inclusion Advisor for CBM Indonesia, Cucu was recently in Australia meeting with CBM Australia delegates. It was not her first time in Australia, having studied a Masters of Public Policy at South Australia’s Flinders University as part of a prestigious Australian Awards Scholarship. Graduating in 2017, Cucu says the experience was an important step in realising pathways to advocate for greater inclusion.
“It was a really good opportunity to study in Australia, not only to increase my knowledge, make connections and understanding different cultures from different countries but also to be involved with the Flinders University disability community.”
“I had the opportunity to give advice or my experience in terms of accessibility throughout the campus. Within two years I was able to feel really independent, knowing that I can go anywhere on public transportation in Adelaide.”
“My husband is in a wheelchair, he’s an artist. He came to spend time with me and he had a great time, we were both able to enjoy our lives.”
Cucu and her husband even arranged a nine-day backpacker holiday of Australia, travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra on public transport to eventually experience snow at Mount Thredbo. She was able to take her learnings back home to Indonesia, where barriers to inclusion were more evident.
“Being an international student with a disability was a great opportunity to learn and to experience things by ourselves. From there, you see that there might be gaps when you come back home, with the reality that our country may not be that accessible.”
Although poverty rates in Indonesia have halved in the last two decades, according to the World Health Organisation, about 38 million people (15 per cent of Indonesia’s population) have some form of disability.
“There are barriers around the world, not only physical barriers to accessibility but also attitudes, believes and bigger systems which can be about policy and legislation. They all exist. But I think of my experiences of being to Japan, the US, Australia and Norway â all of these countries are well-developed and I am able to experience freedom in these countries.”
“I just thought, I need to do something and bring something from my overseas experience and translate it to what can I do to my country to make it better.”
Cucu’s work with CBM Indonesia allowed her to advise on ensuring that the humanitarian response to the 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami was inclusive of people with disabilities.
Watch Cucu’s report on the impact of #COVID19 on the lives of people with disabilities below: