By Heidi Trautmann
The International Day of People with Disability is the 3rd of December. For over thirty years this day is celebrated around the world to promote the awareness of disability issues… with varying degrees of success and to gain the support with concern of integration in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
I had met with some concerned people during the last two years who were voluntarily working for the issues mentioned above. There was a dense curtain drawn as society demands healthy and able people in their midst. Some people had the idea to bring not only the issues but the people concerned – the disabled people – onto the street into the vision of society, literally speaking. Society were giving donations but not a further thought. That was when I first met people like Figen Inan and Neslihan Basaran who were trying to open the eyes of society to hear the voices from behind the curtain: We want to be given a chance, the right to exist next to you.
Figen Inan has opened her exhibition MOVEMENT on December 4 at the Ismet Güney Art Centre in Nicosia (I reported on my website and in Cyprus Observer) with paintings and sketches mostly in black and white – charcoal sketches, big sized acrylic paintings of movements inspired by the sports-team of disabled people doing Basketball in their wheelchairs. I repeat here what she said: “To visit the families of the people of my project who are also directly concerned by the restricted life conditions, gave me courage and power of will to go through with my work. I think that is the right way to approach society to show them the problems by means of documents, painted documents or by photography.”
Dr. Kudret Özersay the head of the organization ‘Toparlaniyoruz’(an organization and their philosophy I want to find out more about) was opening the exhibition; they had donated an urgently needed wheelchair which was handed over at the occasion to Orkun Boskurt, the President of the Cyprus Turkish Orthopedic Disability Association, who was present on the opening together with other members of the association. It was touching to see them looking at the paintings by Figen Inan, to gratefully and proudly recognize that the curtain of invisibility has been drawn aside by the activities of such people. Orkun Bozkurt who is bound to the wheelchair since his childhood has brought out a book of his poems together with poems by the former president Mustafa Celik who died recently. I bought one copy and Orkun signed it for me. Figen, we thank you for your endless efforts to show us the world and the pride of the disabled people with such beautiful and touching art works.
The CTODA (Cyprus Turkish Orthopedic Disability Association) was founded in 1988 and has its base behind the General Hospital. I shall visit the Association within the near future.
But there are more people who have lately been engaged with the cause and that are some artists such as Sinem Ertaner and Ülviye Percini…who with others, have led the workshop in the Bandabuliya for five weekends with the concluding exhibition of their works at the end of it. Working with clay, some of the people in wheelchairs have done it for the very first time. The workshop was supported by the UN and its representatives were opening the exhibition alongside with the First Lady Meral Eroglu who has been a great supporter of the issues of disability, especially with children. (I reported with my article ‘200 Stars are born’).
The awareness of this side of society has been greatly improved by the ParaOlympics and all these sportsmen and women have our highest respect for the way they have fought their destiny and proven that they are most valuable members of society. We must make an effort to see them in our rows with full acceptance and equality by seeing beyond their disability. But we must learn about them and see what their requirements are to be able to take part, i.e. by providing ramps, seating accomodations in public places, access to all facilities such as restrooms.
In our society we have people with disabilities that are not obvious but more harmful, such as with heartless and brainless people, respectless and loveless, friendless because of their attitudes. They should all go and visit such places where the people with disabilities live and work and whose destiny is not of their own doings.