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Out of Their Hands

The Struggle of Blind Indonesian Massage Therapists

According to the Institute for Economic and Social Research at the University of Indonesia, only half of all Indonesians with disabilities are employed. For Indonesians who are blind and low vision, employment opportunities are even more limited, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified competition for the traditional occupations of massage and cracker selling. Due to this new competition from sighted massage parlors and cracker sellers, blind massage therapists have begun working as buskers, risking injury in crowded marketplaces and streets. Eka Setiawan, a blind activist, says advocates must continue to demand more professional opportunities for Indonesians who are blind and low vision. *Video includes audio descriptions for blind and low-vision audiences. *Read along by clicking the cc button on your YouTube player.

*Click here for the Bahasa Indonesia version of this film.

Photo of Mahretta Maha.

Filmmaker: Mahretta Maha

Mahretta “Retta” Maha is a blind disability rights activist hailing from Jakarta, Indonesia. She is one of four children. Of all the children, Maha's parents prioritized sending Retta to college and eventually law school. She earned a law degree from Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia. In June 2020, Maha became a program officer at the Center for Election Access of Citizens with Disabilities (PPUA), which is part of the National Coalition of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities. PPUA works to ensure equal rights for persons with disabilities to vote, be elected, and organize elections.

As a program officer at PPUA, Maha coordinates with coalition leaders, writes letters to institutions and stakeholders, organizes webinars, and helps manage social media accounts. Overall, Maha finds purpose in serving others. Maha says, “Blindness is not a barrier for you to do some things but is a challenge for you to do many things.”

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