Standing in an elevator was a boy and a father. Halfway before arriving at their designated floor, the elevator stopped and opened to reveal the sight of a man sitting in his wheelchair. A few rows of grey hairs and face lines seemed to compliment his kind-looking character rather than otherwise. However, it was the way he rolled himself in that took the boy by surprise. Prancing from the legs of his dad to limblessness of this gentleman, the boy couldn't help to blurt out, "Where are your legs?"
The father let out a gasp and turned toward the man to apologize. The man smiled, before turning quickly to the little boy and said, "Yes, young man, I do not have legs, but you know what? The world will be so much more beautiful if you focus on what people have rather than what they do not".
"I had my first prosthetic leg when I was one year old", said Nicky. The co-founder of WeAble, a job-matching platform for disabilities. Fortunately, I had an excellent support system since I was very young, so disability was never a problem for me. It wasn't until I met my business partners to learn that the others were not as lucky".
There are 260 million people in Indonesia, and about 20 millions of them are physically and intellectually disabled. Despite the apparent challenges of day-to-day mobility, finding a proper job that pays enough to sustain their lives has become the priority shared struggle.
"Most disabilities are underprivilege, uneducated, and very vulnerable. In Indonesia, we don't have good support systems to educate and encourage them to be independent. The current subsidy scheme seemed to spoil and encapsulate them in their comfort bubbles, which are very difficult to break out off." said Nicky
In 2016, the country issued a law that acknowledges the rights of people with disabilities and that they should be treated equally to those without disabilities. In the following year, fourteen cities signed the Charter of the Network of Indonesian Mayors for Inclusive-Cities that committed all cities to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities. Inclusive-city covers the range of accessibility from physical access to buildings and public transports to primary education, vocational training, and the opportunity for proper skill-to-job matching.
Although the demand since 2016 for disabled applicants has increased, finding disabled applicants with skills for the jobs has proven to be challenging as many disabled Indonesians were uneducated and untrained.
Trust First, Independence Second
"As soon as I started this program in 2016, I realized that I needed to build trust. No one believed in the platform; some of my friends have even accused me of taking advantage of the disabled people." Nicky shared her entrepreneur journey. "So I went on TV, gave several interviews, and carry the torch for Asian Para Games in 2018 to build the brand. Those efforts helped us grew from zero to 500 talents today".
"Our service is ranging from writing a CV, interview preparation, vocational training; massage workshops for the blinds, house cleaning and car washing training for the deaf. All classes are free, but the talents must pay for their transportation to come to class, in exchange for a job guarantee at the end of the training. A small commitment is sometimes necessary".
"Many of the disabilities have been dependant their whole lives, and it is a big step for them to earn their own money and make their families proud." Said, Nicky
"The work was difficult at first, but it got easier with the training and the help from my colleagues. It is my fourth job, and I like this one the most".
WeAble Talents at H&M
“We don’t feel the discrimination at work here. The only challenge is talking to colleagues who don’t know sign language.”
"It feels good to be able to work and to dream for a better future".
Said WeAble talents at FWD Life Indonesia
"I am the only child. I've made parents proud by getting this job, and that made me very happy".
WeAble Talents at H&M
The Challenge Continues
When talking about filling the position, the problem sometimes wasn’t about the limited supply of disabled talents, but the discrimination they were facing. Most employers avoid hiring disabilities because of incapability stigma.
Disabled children were likely to be out of school. A study from BPS - Statistics Indonesia in 2015 has reported that at the same age group of 7 to 24, less than half (46.21%) of disabled people attended school, comparing to 65% of non-disabled people. The low education level means a limited journey of career development.
"Besides working with disabilities, we are also working with employers. The workshops are not only for recruiting awareness but also for acknowledging employers’ concerns in hiring and preparing of the disability-inclusive environment. So we can have a better understanding of each other."
Nicky also mentioned about her participation in two YSEALI programs and how they had helped her form two important partnerships to expand the operation and reach out to more disabilities.
"We set up Tanoon in 2018 after I came back from the 2017 YSEALI program in Chicago. This first partnership allowed us to expand our training to disabilities in Makassar. Later in 2019, at YSEALI Summit in Phuket, I had found another partner, and this year we've planned to expand the program to West Sulawesi."
With so many to-do-list, C asean crew had asked about her secret source of energy before we parted. Nicky gave us her usual lovely smile and said, "When people come to me and say THANK YOU, the knowledge that what we do change lives keeps me go".
For further support and cooperation, please feel free to contact Nicky at