Dwarfs praise affirmative action decision by government

TÜLAY CANBOLAT
ISTANBUL
Published 26.02.2019 00:07

People suffering from achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder commonly known as dwarfism, have been granted their long-overdue rights. In a landmark move, the government approved their classification as disabled, paving the way for social benefits allocated for disabled members of the society. Achondroplasia patients, whose severity of medical conditions differ, are often deprived of the same rights as other disabled people. The Ombudsman Institution has launched a project for their classification as disabled and after two years, the government now recognizes them as such, giving social benefits to those suffering "40 percent" of achondroplasia.

Umut Kösemen, who suffers from achondroplasia, said they were happy with this historic decision by the government. "We fought for our rights for years and many of my fellow community members died before they could see this decision," he said. Kösemen, who is only 1.32 meters tall, is a professional athlete, graduate of two universities and bilingual, yet, he complains that he cannot find a job. "Employers are reluctant to hire me because of my condition. We face many other obstacles such as driving, living in houses suitable for [dwarfs] and even finding clothes. The average life expectancy for [dwarfs] is 55 years. Moreover, we encounter humiliating stares from people," Kösemen said when talking about the challenges that they faced. "Life will be easier now," he adds.

Under their new status, dwarfs will be eligible for employment privileges granted to other members of the disabled community and qualified for early retirement. The disabled in Turkey are required to be hired, both in the public and private sector, under an employment quota mandated for every company under the law.

Dwarfs will also be eligible for a set of benefits, including reduced taxes, coverage of their needs, such as prosthetics and specially designed shoes, by the Social Security Institution (SGK) and free medicine and insurance by the government.

The disabled community comprise about 7 percent of the population in Turkey and often complain about the lack of employment options and accessibility, along with public prejudice towards the disabled that makes their social inclusion more difficult.

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