Getting anywhere is a challenge for Turkey's disabled community amid mass transit vehicles with little accessibility, insensitive drivers grabbing their parking spaces and narrow boardwalks being among many obstacles they face.
The country's disabled community, which is comprised of about 6.9 percent of the population, marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities yesterday with complaints over limited accessibility.
Fatih Karataş, a wheelchair-bound tennis player in Istanbul, pointed out the absurdity of an overpass in the city's Şişli district that he has never managed to cross. The builders of the overpass apparently forgot to build a descending ramp for wheelchair users, though they built a ramp for climbing upstairs. Ahmet Pala in the southern city of Adana complained of a similar problem. Pala wanted to attend an event to mark the day but he soon regretted it once he left his home. His first obstacle was an iron barrier installed for some reason on a boardwalk ramp for wheelchairs. He managed to get to the boardwalk with the help of a passerby and reached an overpass to get across the street, only to be disappointed to see the overpass neither had a ramp nor an elevator for wheelchair users. "I wonder how many people in wheelchairs are able to get out," Pala told Ihlas News Agency after his bad day out. "You can't see many people in wheelchairs here because they can't go out because of this," he says. "We either have to take a longer route or not go out. People help us but we deserve to live without assistance. I don't want to ask people to help me get around," he says.
Turkey adopted a series of regulations for accessibility last year including the mandatory inclusion of accessibility option zoning plans for cities and towns. Parliament has also passed a new law making it compulsory for public buses to be accessible for the disabled. Yet, it seems it would take time to modify roads, overpasses, boardwalks and buses for the disabled, whose rights have long been neglected in the country, especially in terms of zoning plans, which take years to change.
Another complaint of the disabled community is motorists parking their cars on the modified sidewalks or occupying parking spaces designated for disabled drivers.
As the pace of implementing accessibility is slow, the disabled took the matter into their own hands to expose those disregarding their rights. The "Burada Engellendim" (I was blocked here) website offers the disabled a chance to raise their voice. People submit photos as proof of a lack of accessibility to raise awareness and hopefully, to get authorities to correct their wrongs. Most photos show cars parked haphazardly on the sidewalks or a lack of elevators and steep stairs in public buildings.
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