“OBSTACLE OVERCOMERS” HELP CHANGE THE DISABILITY NARRATIVE
Life can be very difficult for people with disabilities in Turkey, with exclusion from society often among the challenges they face. This year, SAT-7 TÜRK’s program Obstacle Overcomers is providing a space for people with disabilities, and their loved ones, to contribute to the changing narrative on disability.
Obstacle Overcomers has for several years provided a platform for people in Turkey to share their stories of living with disability. It shows their strength, resilience, and potential, reminding viewers that all people are made in the image of God and are therefore deserving of inclusion and dignity.
In a recent episode, viewers were introduced to 31-year-old Harun Koçaroğlu, who lost his lower body in an accident. Harun shared how he lives a fulfilling life defined by gratitude, and said:
“There are people who have similar difficulties to me and who are locked in their homes. This is a big mistake. Instead, they should be able to come out into society and come into contact with other people. This is the way for them to become more confident, and to prompt other people to accept and promote their inclusion in society.”
In the program’s new season, launched this year, the program began also to share the perspectives of these individuals’ colleagues, friends, family members, and community stakeholders. This enables them to model for viewers who may be less aware how families, workplaces, and communities can practise inclusion. Harun, for example, explained how the support of his mother is invaluable and enables him to live as an integrated member of his community.
In another episode, Osman Şahin spoke of how his workplace supports his colleagues with disabilities. “They have as many skills as any of us,” he said. “We behave in such a way that their disabilities do not hinder us from doing things. We do many things together outside of work, too, like basketball.”
The program also hears from advocates who work in this field. In one episode, Hacer Altuntaş, president of the Canik Private Child and Families with Disabilities Solidarity Association, argued that the family is an essential starting point for integration. “We organise activities for children to attend with their families and their peers, to promote integration. We try to support every effort for a world without barriers.” she explains.
Attitudes to disability in Turkey have begun to improve over the past decade, as people with disabilities have become more visible in the public eye. However, they still face many restrictions that stem from discriminatory legislative provisions. In addition, attitudes such as shame, fear or embarrassment remain common within Turkish society. As a result, individuals with disabilities have not yet been fully included in Turkish society.
However, a positive change has begun, and the program Obstacle Overcomers has been contributing to the beginning of this change over the years.
“We aim to raise awareness among the general population, and to encourage them to accept all individuals and support people with disabilities overcome any obstacles they face,” says Birtanem Candaner, presenter of the program.