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Lokman Ayva, flrst cisabled deputy İn Turkey and head of Whlte Crescent, leads several actlvities for Integratlon of dlsables Into society. You do not need to see to wander GÜLİZAR BAKİ İSTANBUL Lokman Ayva was the first disabled deputy in Turkey i and the first visually Lmpaired member of the European Council. Before entering politics Ayva vvas an activist and he stili is. He started theBeyazay (White Crescent) movement to defend the rights of the blind in 1988. Tlıis movement then became an association in 1992. Today Türkiye Beyazay Derneği (Turkey VVhite Crescent Association) is a povverful nongovernmental organization that holds intemational meetings. They held their tlıird international meeting in Westem Tlırace in Greece last vveek. Two buses full of Beyazay volunteers, including many members vvho are either physically or visually handicapped, toured Komotini, Kavala and Thessaloniki. Accompanied by Greek officers, the)' had a meeting in Komotini. Haji Ahmet Osman, a Turkish deputy in Greece, thanked Beyazay for making them avvare of something that has long been ignored. During the meeting Greek participants listened carefully and took notes about projects being launched in Turkey. Turks residing in eastern Tlırace were especially interested in the meeting, vvhich carried many important messages about integrating people vvith disabilities into society. They discover witlı tlıeir ears, not their eyes Most people are surprised to leam that an association most of vvhose members have disabilities organizes tours abroad. Ayva, vvho has visited more than 20 countries, smiles about .tlıis. "We organize tours and.havemeetings abroad for two( reasons: First, to make our compkny mission 'Education overcomes ali difficulties' globally knövvn and to increase avvare^ ness among peop'ie around u^İböuFflıe riğîıts oftlıe disabled.' And second, to try to support the psychological needs of people witlı disabilities. People vvith disabilities don't get to leave their home environment, so vve try to lıelp them overcome psychological limitations that may be preventing them from fitting into society like able-bodied people." he says. As for members of Beyazay, tlıey'lıave no problems adapting to a normal life as they have been able to address every problem and psychological hindrance tlırouglı education. Members vvitlı visual impkirments readily have their photos taken in front of appealing scenes. Of course, they are informed about the arclıitecture, layout and features of tlıose beforelıand. Ayva, the organizer of the tour, is the most popular person on tlıese tours; everyone vvants to have their photos taken vvith Ayva. He accepts offers on the proviso that he receives a copy of the photos. They have lıeld prior meetings in northem Cyprus and Syria and they are thinking of going to Bulgaria or Georgia for tlıeir next meeting. Ayva states that Bulgaria is more significant due to problems conceming the rights of the disabled in Bulgaria. Services for the disabled "Unlike in the past, opening schools for the blind and the deaf is now considered a riglıt. Blind children must be given books suitable for their needs, just like otlıer children. Not providing the disabled vvith an appropriate environment is an example of discrimination. Today botlı our govemment and the people are conscious of tlıis fart," says Ayva, adding that Turkey is much better than many otlıer neiglıboring countries in temıs of tlıis issue. Each Beyazay branch office is busy vvorking diligently and launclıing some amazing projects. For instance, in cooperation vvitlı the Konya Provincial National Education Directorate, the Konya branch of Beyazay launched a project to enable 126 children vvitlı disabilities to receive sclıooling at home. Branch offices in Bayburt and Malatya are also running projects in cooperation vvith education faculties and poliçe academies. Similarly, branch offices in Erzurum and Erzincan are also vvorking on similar projects. They overcame tlıeir psychological limitations VVhile Ayva speaks of Beyazay projects he shovvs hovv much an NGO can clıange the destinies of tlıousands of people vvith disabilities. He frequently says, "Being prevented from producing something is the biggest problem faced by people vvith disabilities." It is evident from the personal aclıievements of the members on the bus that, vvlıen given a chance, people vvitlı disabilities can aclıieve many things. Among the people vvith disabilities on the bus during tlıis tour are a deputy, a former press advisor to the prime minister and an active employee of a municipality. Ayva says blind children can novv dream of becoming deputies and nıinisters in Parliament. Ayva slıares a stoıy about an incident he experienced at customs in Saudi Arabia. The customs officers didn't believe that Ayva vvas a deputy in Parliament as they could not imagine that a blind person could become one. They even took lıim into custody; lıovvever, tlıey released lıim after receiving a cali from Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.




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