Beranda Pustaka Blog The Interpretation Of The Term Diffable As A Form Of Inclusive Social Construction

The Interpretation of the Term Diffable as a Form of Inclusive Social Construction

Blog / Orang dengan disabilitas Mitra Payung : YAKKUM

By: Anggriani Mahdianingsih

Individuals in society have differences from one another. The most obvious difference is the difference in physical features, such as tall or short, white or black skin color, fat or thin, or different facial postures. However, these differences can be understood by the community as  whole.

However, there is one difference that until now has not been fully accepted in the community. ‘Normal’ and ‘disabled’ discourse which become social constructs in society and are often the source of sensitive problems. Individuals with physical limitations or individuals whose ways of doing activities are different from most individuals will automatically be considered disabled. This is also called handicapism, which means prejudice or negative attitudes toward people who have disabilities in which people with disabilities are often seen as people who are socially not “mature” and unable in everything (Suharto, 2005). The disabled label commonly used in the medical world is considered to have a negative connotation so that other terms are created to replace the word ‘disabled’ in society.

Not just a name, the words used as a term for marginal groups also sometimes result to other social constructions that make these marginal groups increasingly marginalized. The government, in the regulations that regulates this, uses the term ‘persons with disabilities’ as a term for people with disabilities. According to the definition of the law, ‘persons with disabilities’ are those who experience long-term physical, intellectual, mental, and/or sensory limitations, who in interacting with the environment may experience obstacles and difficulties to participate fully and effectively with other citizens based on equal rights (Law No. 8/2016 Article 1).

At first glance, there is no problem with the term. However, if described further, the use of the term ‘persons with disabilities’ becomes a trigger for the social construction that develops in the community. Disability which means “incapable” makes the community in general only assume that the disabled group is a group that is not able to carry out daily activities like those of the community in general. In fact, the group is not incapable, but has different abilities to carry out activities. For example, people with physical limitations on their legs since birth, can still carry out daily activities using wheelchairs.

In my opinion, the term with better meaning that does not discriminate against disabled groups is ‘diffable’. The term diffable is an acronym for differently abled. This term comes from English which means ‘persons who have different abilities’. According to Zola in Maftuhin, differenlty abled term was created to emphasize the “can-do” aspects of having a disability (Zola, 1988). The term diffable means that disability may result in people being unable to do something ‘normal’, but the diffable can still do it differently. Walking, for example, is a way to do mobility from one place to another. Those who don’t have legs can do mobility in a wheelchair.

Because the meaning that does not connote discriminating against disabled groups, the term diffable began to be used by several groups in the community. Based on the writings of Suharto in Maftuhim (2016), the term diffable was popularized and became a ‘tool’ for the struggles of diffable activists. They used this term in empowerment programs, rights campaigns, as the name of institutions and organizations, even in a number of cases, this term successfully became the name of government documents such as regional regulations. Although in the end it was not used as an official term in the law, the term diffable is becoming very popular.

The diversity of terms related to diffable shows how important the choice of terms is. According to Zola (1988), there are at least two important roles in the use of a term (naming). First, the role of connotations and associations. Just say someone is a ‘thief’, then everything can happen to him, such as being beaten up by people in public, or at least arrested by the police. But, try to call it “errancy”, then maybe people will try to clarify, explain the case, and correct their mistakes.

Likewise, the mention of disability, disable, and diffable. When we call it disability and disable, it will indirectly occur to us that they cannot do anything, they are different and do not have rights to be fulfilled like other people. However, when they are considered as diffable people, what will occur to us is that they are the same as us; they are also part of the community, can do what we do in different ways, and have rights that must be fulfilled.

Because of those terms, discrimination arises. Although it is true, the government has regulated in such a way regulations concerning discrimination against groups of diffable.

For example, in Law No. 8/2016 Article 2, it is stated that discrimination based on disability refers to any distinction, exclusion or limitation on the basis of disability that intends to or has the effect of limiting or eliminating recognition, enjoyment and implementation on the basis of equality with others on all human rights and fundamental freedoms in politics. economic, social, cultural, civil or other.

However, the fact that happens in the field, the community still directly or indirectly ostracize diffable groups. Many of those still think that they are pitiful, without doing any action to help, still think that diffable people cannot do anything. Thus, the diffable groups experience difficulties in their daily lives, at school, in getting a job, and having a family.

Not only the treatment of the community as a whole, even within the closest family, discrimination happens against diffable people. There are still many families with one family member who is a diffable person, then other family members feel embarrassed, then what then happen is those diffable individuals are locked up so that they do not come out of the house, even to the point of being confined.

As a result, diffable who experience discrimination will feel more depressed, worse off, and helpless. In actual fact, the family is the biggest source of spirit for diffable people to be able to accept the situation they have and empower them by developing potential in various fields.

In the Decree of the Minister of Social Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia Number 07/HUK/KEP/II/1984 on the Basic Pattern of Development in the Field of Social Welfare, there are policies and steps in handling social problems of persons with disabilities. The policy is social rehabilitation aiming for increasing, expanding, and equalizing community-basef social welfare effort for people with disabilities. Second, increasing, expanding and equalizing distribution of facilities for persons with disabilities. Third, increasing community participation to support social welfare efforts for people with disabilities.

However, in the implementation, the government’s efforts to provide equitable facilities sometimes still pay less attention and tend to exclude diffable groups. As a small example, sidewalks that are specifically for pedestrians in public spaces still do not provide special pathways for blind groups. Another example, all forms of work provided by the government have conditions that close the opportunities for diffable groups, namely ‘physically and mentally healthy’.

Diffable groups that have been deemed disabled will naturally not be able to meet these requirements because they are considered physically unwell. However, many workers, such as politicians who are physically fit, but mentally unwell, are easily accepted at work. In fact, when compared, the performance of diffable groups with paralyzed legs to politicians with paralyzed brain, the diffable groups will certainly perform better.

Not only in the area of facilities and employment provision, diffable groups also experience discrimination in the field of education and fulfillment of their daily needs. Reporting from Berita UGM, Danang Arif Darmawan, S.sos., M.Si said that households that have family members of persons with disabilities are potential to have the higher vulnerability to poverty than other families who do not have persons with disabilities. This is due to more expensive costs of treatment and medication for diffable groups. Similarly in the field of education. At present, the government is still at a stage of only opening access for diffable groups to study. However, it has not yet reached the stage of guaranteeing access for diffable groups in obtaining sustainable and inclusive education.

As explained above, diffable groups, as citizens have the right to get the same welfare as other people. Thus, the government has the main responsibility in fulfilling the rights of its citizens, including diffable groups.

As stated in the Constitution of 1945 Article 28 Paragraph 4 of Amendment II, it is stated that the protection, promotion, enforcement and fulfillment of human rights are the responsibility of the state, especially the government. Therefore, the government’s efforts to be responsible for the welfare of all its citizens can be carried out by implementing an inclusive social development program.

Inclusive here refers to a government development program that does not only target a number of community groups and not only benefits certain groups, but also embraces all levels of society, especially marginalized groups as well as diffable groups. Inclusive development can also mean that development is designed fairly and equitably by involving all communities actively so that the results of development can be enjoyed by all Indonesian citizens.

It also needs to be recognized that the ability and capacity of the government has not been able to reach all levels of the community as its citizens. Thus, the role of other actors, especially the community, is needed as the closest actor to marginalized groups. Although based on the basis of social philanthropy, until now the community has an important role in helping these marginal groups.

The small thing with a big impact that we can do as citizens is to reinterpret the terms used to refer to marginal groups, such as the diffable groups. One form of resistance and essential empowerment is precisely starting from an attempt to dismantle social conventions believed by the public, bureaucrats, academics, even NGO activists to deconstruct ‘disabled’ discourse or ‘persons with disability’ by creating more equitable and empowering counter-discourses empowering, which is the conception that those who have no legs, for example, turn out to have different able or when indonesianized and abbreviated becomes ‘difabel’ (Fakih, in Maftuhin). The right meaning of the term used is the first step for the formation of an inclusive attitude toward the diffable group.


Decree of the Minister of Social Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia Number 07/HUK/KEP/II/1984. Basic Pattern for Development of Social Welfare. Jakarta: Ministry of Social Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.

Maftuhin, Arif. 2016. MENGIKAT MAKNA DISKRIMINASI: Penyandang Cacat, Difabel, dan Penyandang Disabilitas. INKLUSI: Journal of  Disability Studies.3(2). P.139-162.

Mulyadi. 2013. Lokakarya Nasional Konvensi hak-hak penyandnag disabilitas, Jakarta, 14-15 Maret 2013. Jakarta: Directorate of Human Rights and Humanity, Directorate General Multilateral, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.

Demartono, Argyo & Hari Sudarto. 2005. Menyibak Sensitivitas Gender dalam Kelurga Difabel. Surakarta: Sebelas Maret Universty Press.

Ika. 2015. Penyandang Disabilitas Masih Mengalami Diskriminasi, Berita UGM 03 December 2015 accessed from on October 30, 2018.

Suharto, Edi. 2005. Membangun Masyarakat Memberdayakan Rakyat.Bandung: PT Refika Aditama.


This essay was written by Anggriani Mahdianingsih for essay writing competition organized by Program Peduli. The views of the writer do not reflect the views of Program Peduli.