Turkey's disabled community, which comprises about 7 percent of the population, marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3 amid problems of social inclusion, accessibility and employment. Addressing an event on the occasion, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said they would employ at least 5,000 disabled citizens next year in public sector jobs.
The country has adopted a set of regulations in recent years to improve the lives of the disabled and plans to do more under the auspices of the country's Family and Social Policies Ministry. The ministry offers incentives for work places employing disabled citizens since 2014. Businesses creating jobs for the disabled are eligible for free loans and tax incentives as well as partial payment for each disabled employee they hire.
Yıldırım said at the event attended by disabled citizens that Turks with disabilities have started to write success stories over the past 15 years. He noted that the country bagged 46 medals in the 2017 Summer Deaflympics organized in northern Samsun province.
He noted that the government introduced the Law for Disabled People for the first time in 2005 and 366,000 disabled people were given jobs during this period.
He said the number of such people working in government departments was 5,000 in 2002 and it is over 50,000 today, while 800 disabled people launched their own businesses with government support.
Five thousand more people with disabilities will start working in 2018, Yıldırım added.
The country also adopted regulations to increase the employment quota for the disabled and introduced monthly benefits for families with disabled members cared for at home. The disabled are also provided free passes on public transit. Through a state-run employment agency, Turkey also provides free loans for disabled entrepreneurs and projects involving mass employment of the disabled.
Bennur Karaburun, a wheelchair-bound lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party(AK Party) says Turkey needs a map of the disabled to better reach out to the community. "If we knew exact number of the disabled and other rates about them, we could better direct our social policies," she told Anadolu Agency (AA). Karaburun says the 2005 law for the disabled was "a change of paradigm."
"It is the most important step for the disabled and brought some landmark regulations," she said. Karaburun noted that the law was revised in 2014 to cover more people with different disabilities to help them access education, a problem the disabled faced for a long time. "We are at a point now that gives us more hope. I believe that more solutions will come in the future to address the problem of the disabled. The biggest problem for now is the lack of concrete figures about the disabled citizens. It would help us to draw a road map to address the problems," she stated.
Abdurrahman Kurtaslan, director of Federation of Associations of the Disabled (EDF), says Turkey is in a better place compared to Europe when it comes to the rights of the disabled. "Still, we lag behind about the wages of the disabled. If you are a disabled person, you are ineligible for state grants for the disabled once you have a job," he says. Kurtaslan also complained shorter employment in the private sector and linked it to the lack of communication between employee and the employer. "We train disabled employees' co-workers and employers on how to communicate better and it certainly helps their workplace relations," he said. Kurtaslan also calls the public to be "more understanding, more tolerant" toward disabled citizens.
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