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Donít Fence Me In

Bali Foundation Seeks to Make Religious Site Accessible to Handicapped People

(1/14/2013) Bali Daily (The Jakarta Post) reports that Bunga Jepun Bali Foundation is working to make Balinese religious sites fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Kadek Karya Dewi (33), a woman who been disabled by polio since the age of seven, has been assisted in performing religious obligations by family members who have carried her up stairs to allow access to Balinese temples. Unable or embarrassed to ask for assistance as she grew older, the construction of Balinese temples has oftentimes represented an insurmountable obstacles to her full participation in the religious life of the community.

Living in a village near Bali’s most-sacred Puri Besakih, Dewi is wheelchair-bound, and like other members of her community is obliged to participate in communal works (ngayah) in support of the shared religious life of the Balinese. These tasks are extremely problematic for the handicapped.

The Bunga Jepun Foundation is one of several orgaizations in Bali seeking to assist people with handicaps. I Nyoman Dana, the Foundation’s founder, argues on behalf of making Balinese temples user-friendlier for the disabled.

Says Dana: 

“It does not require massive renovation of a temple to give easier access. We can provide a new entrance for them,”
Dana traces his desire to make religious temples more accessible to the handicapped to his experience in 1995 handling a group of Balinese visiting a Hindu temple in Yogyakarta. “Sometime in 1995, we received a group of disabled people from Bali. Despite their physical handicaps, they were trying, hand-in-hand, to enter the temple to pray there. It was such a touching sight," he explained.

Today he lobbies various government departments and agencies to make all public facilities accessible to people with disabilities. He also sees the lack of accessibility in much wider terms, saying, “That lack of consideration can also be extended to the ways people with disabilities can be treated when they seek employment, education or services.”

Bali currently estimates 25,329 people are living on the island with some degree of physical disability.