By Seth Bravin,
IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) celebrated its 5th Anniversary last year, so I was excited to join the more than 2,000 program participants from 29 countries who have contributed their expertise to projects in developing economies. Through CSC, I had an opportunity to work with Sentra Advokasi Perempuan Difabel dan Anak (SAPDA), an Indonesian NGO in the City of Yogyakarta that advocates for the social, educational and employment inclusion of women, children and persons with disabilities. As a deaf person, I felt a particular affinity for this project and for the people I could help with my disability perspective and background in developing accessibility solutions for business.
My team’s specific project was to collaborate with SAPDA on an improved content and communications strategy, and research and development initiatives to support the organization’s efforts to obtain additional funding. SAPDA needed information and communications technology skills that they could integrate with their human resources and finance systems. They also needed the ability to communicate their value proposition to outside funding entities and others. Working with an American Sign Language interpreter – who, in turn, worked with an Indonesian translator – I dug in.
As work got underway, my team and I visited the University of Islam Negeri and interacted with several students with disabilities who shared their daily challenges with us. Chief among these challenges was the lack of captioning and interpreting services for the students’ classes. The University of Islam Negeri is the only university in the City of Yogyakarta with a disability office. But while that office is staffed with many dedicated volunteers, the lack of a core professional staff meant that services and advocacy were inconsistent.
After collaborating with employees and stakeholders from SAPDA , my team and I developed a set of recommendations that included redesigning the organization’s website, developing new government services for persons with disabilities, and implementing a set of best practices for their Human Resources and Finance operations. SAPDA was pleased with our recommendations, and plans to use them as the basis for a five-year strategic plan.
I kept a blog of my personal impressions during my CSC experience, and looking back I can say that it truly was a life-changing experience. In one fell swoop, I had the chance to use my professional skills and personal experience to make a positive difference for people with disabilities. Along the way, I also was able to refine my collaboration and leadership skills by working with a global team of IBM’s top talent. It was an experience that not only was personally fulfilling, but also helped me grow professionally.
Seth Bravin is a Strategy and Solutions Manager with the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center.