Ratni Chose a Wheelchair, and It Set Her Free
For many people, my disability was a curse. No one thought I would be able to live a normal life.
Today, I’m a national athlete. I ride a motorcycle. I hold down a job and am the chairperson of Yayasan Cahaya Mutiara Ubud, an organisation which champions opportunities and access for people with disabilities.
My name is Ni Made Ratni, or Ratni to my friends. I was born with deformities in both legs, and my young life revolved around surgery after surgery, none of which had the desired outcome of giving me ‘normal’ legs. Finally, when I was 14, with the support of my generous benefactor Mr Thierry, I was able to fly to Singapore to seek further treatment.
In Singapore, I was given two choices: more surgery, or amputation. I chose amputation. For most people, losing their legs would mean losing their freedom.
It was the opposite for me.
I wanted more from life than thinking about my legs, or the next surgery. I wanted to go to school, have friends, do other things and live. Amputation was a difficult choice for my family to accept though. They had seen the effect of previous failed surgeries on my mental health and were worried that I would live to regret my choice. But I was confident that I was making the right decision, and I’ve never looked back.
Life has changed dramatically since my amputation. As unexpected as it sounds, being wheelchair-bound makes it easier for me to do all of the things I want.
I have been able to go to school, make new friends, and have represented my country in Wheelchair Rugby, where I was team captain, and named MVP (Most Valuable Player) in 2015, 2016, and 2020. I’ve won first and second place in the Maybank Marathon in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and have also won medals in Women’s Lawnball and Fencing Bali in 2018.
I’ve worked very hard to prove that I am as capable as someone without a disability. But I, and other people with disabilities, still face much stigma and are ostracised by the societies we live in.
In Bali, there is still a huge lack of opportunities and access for people with disabilities. At Cahaya Mutiara Ubud, we are working on winning more support to change our community’s lives for the better. We speak when invited to events, and are working to make ourselves heard at the policy level. We are asking our government for public facilities that make access easier for people with disabilities, such as sidewalks on main roads, places of worship and other public places. We advocate for better jobs, education, and assistive devices suitable for the types of disabilities that we have.
I want to continue proving that people with disabilities deserve the same opportunities. In the future, I hope to start a business creating jobs for people who are less fortunate.
Disability is not a curse. It is not to be shunned. I am proof that with equal access to education, employment and participation in society, people with disabilities can achieve their full potential.