This profile was prepared when Bambang Basuki was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Bambang is working to give people with visual disabilities access to full, high quality educations. Being a teacher at a special school for the blind, Bambang realized that these institutions served a limited number of Indonesians and failed to adequately prepare visually impaired students for universities and careers, as well as productive citizenship. Taking advantage of the Indonesian government’s commitment to integrated education, he launched an institution to equip mainstream schools with the knowledge they need to teach blind and visually impaired students. Through the Mitra Netra Foundation, Bambang creates a resource center in Jakarta as a model and increase the capacity of other organizations across the country to function as resource center as well as making them access to teaching materials, new technologies, and support for teachers with blind students. These resource centers also provide direct services to visually impaired people, including peer counseling and academic support. In opening the possibility for truly inclusive education, Bambang exposes all students to peers of different abilities, building respect for people with special needs and a more inclusive society. Bambang has taken advantage of increasingly available new technologies to develop and spread tools that greatly improve the quality of education for blind people. The Mitra Netra Foundation has launched online libraries of Braille and digital audio books and produces hundreds such books a year. Bambang and his colleagues have also refined Indonesian Braille to include new symbols for math, science, and languages, and developed new software, information, and communication devices for the blind. Through resource centers and public libraries, Bambang builds the social networks needed to make these technologies widely accessible.