The Eye of an Activist: How Supron Leads Lampung’s Disability Inclusive Disaster-Preparedness Efforts


Supron is no stranger to natural disasters. Throughout his life, he has experienced several earthquakes, and the way he responded to them differs each time. There was a time when he was running outside when he should have been protecting himself. On another occasion, he was teaching in class and had to run to save himself.

As a person with vision impairment, he and thousands of other Indonesian persons with disabilities often face natural disasters without the knowledge to protect themselves.

That is until recently when a tsunami hit the southern part of Lampung in December 2018, the province where he lives. He decided that the condition needed to change. He realised that persons with disabilities, including himself, have to be able to protect themselves in times of disaster. As a natural activist, he was willing to lead and pave the way, to ensure persons with disabilities will be protected–both by themselves and by policies–when disaster strikes.

Advocate by Nature

The world of advocacy is nothing new to Supron. For more than 25 years, he has been working to create a more inclusive world for persons with disabilities. He started his advocacy through demonstrations until he became the head of Pertuni (Persatuan Tunanetra Indonesia, Indonesian Foundation for Persons with Vision Impairment) for 8 years. A more inclusive society and education have been the main areas that he promotes. Hence, advocating for persons with disabilities to be able to protect themselves in a disaster-prone country like Indonesia was a natural continuation of Supron’s works.

“I think there hasn’t been a lot of talks/discussion about persons with disabilities and disasters, especially in Lampung. We’re not included,” he said. “However, I think we need representation when we’re advocating for disaster relief and management, especially because it is crucial. Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) opened my eyes.”

Supron joined the  DiDRR (Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction) program–a collaboration between the IDA (International Disability Alliance), CBM (Christoffel Blindenmission), Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB), CDD (Centre for Disability in Development), and Malteser International–after a tsunami hit Lampung. He confessed how it helped him to understand how important inclusive disaster preparedness is. Especially in an area where according to the local disaster management agency (BPBD, Badan Penanggulangan Bencana Daerah), 80% of the persons with disabilities population live in rural areas and might not get equal information compared to the metropolitan ones.

He also saw how empowering persons with disabilities through disaster preparedness also benefited his other advocacy measures–for example, education. The disaster preparedness requires data collection of persons with disabilities who have not gotten any service from the village, which then can be used to push other policies.

Start Spreading the News

Supron’s small family is one of the first people with whom he shared the new knowledge he gained through the DiDRR program. They discussed how to be aware when disaster hits, how to anticipate it, and how they can increase their knowledge, as well as prepare their standby bags. Often, he also discussed it with his youngest after the son watched an animation on the topic of disasters. He did not stop there. When Supron meets some of his friends with disabilities, he also shares what he has learned to ensure that his peers will be able to protect themselves.

“We never know when disaster will hit. That’s why knowing how to save ourselves, and how to evacuate is important.”

To increase the reach, Supron even used a radio show at the RRI (Radio Republik Indonesia, Republic of Indonesia’s Radio) Bandar Lampung station, of which he is a part, to share what he has learned. RRI has a segment every Saturday in which they give the space for persons with disabilities to share their stories–and some of them Supron utilised to ensure that his peers are safe during disasters.

Being the natural pioneer that he is, Supron was able to pinpoint momentums in his community in which he can share what he learned from the program. Once, he shared the Disaster Calendar during a community meeting for Eid Adha, because he knew there were going to be a lot of people from his village gathering.

“I use these moments to squeeze in the messages (of disaster preparedness). Hopefully, I will be able to do more than squeezing these messages, because I do feel that I have the moral obligation to spread this knowledge to our fellow friends with disabilities,” he said.

Leading the Way

The willingness to learn and spread the knowledge of disaster preparedness for persons with disabilities led Supron to willingly join various activities to expand his knowledge. He even decided to join a training for facilitators, and had the chance to implement what he had learned in Way Muli, Lampung.

“This experience [delivering disaster preparedness training] is a first for me,” he recounted. “I have always taught kids with vision impairments, but during that time (his experience in Way Muli), my audience was village officials and people with various backgrounds. So yeah, it is an experience for me to facilitate children and their parents.”

Supron admitted that he was feeling nervous when he started facilitating. Other than disaster preparedness being a new realm for him, sometimes he was worried that the audience might have the knowledge that he shared already. “Although it wasn’t always the case. Sometimes the officials do not have a comprehensive knowledge about the policies as well,” he said.

Keeping the focus of the audience posed as one of Supron’s biggest challenges. “They are no students, they are adults with different educational backgrounds and often passive. But taking from what I have learned from the ASB team, I know that I have to push my audience to do activities in seminars, so I can reduce their boredom.”

He did not stop only at facilitating, and will not stop there. Earlier this year, Supron was included in developing a module on disaster preparedness in Indonesia and the national and international policies concerning it. Going forward, he is planning to advocate for persons with disabilities’ involvement in disaster preparedness, using the network and allies he gained from his various training and programs.

“I met various organisations and communities that were willing to discuss. I was thinking of creating a community of persons with disabilities with a focus on disaster preparedness, beginning in Lampung. We’re planning to meet the governor and ask them to create a Disabilities Services Unit in the field of disasters. We should start to change the paradigm that this is not a top-down social issue, but rather a grassroots one, in which the people can contribute to the government.”

As a natural pioneer, Supron was able to help other persons with disabilities to understand how to protect themselves when disaster hit. He did it by doing what he does best: teaching and writing, motivated also by his willingness to learn new skills through training. And Supron’s story showed us that including persons with disabilities in disaster preparedness efforts does not only help them, but rather it will benefit everyone. 

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