Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Although youth is a period full of possibilities and opportunities for one to grow, for disabled youth in Turkey it becomes a period where they first experience exclusion and disappointment. It is during youth that most disabled fail to continue their education or find a job, get detached from social life and give up ambitions for a degree, job, partner or family. Disabled youth from disadvantaged backgrounds are especially neglected, kept locked in their homes as passive beings. The result is what is called “a sleeping giant”, a mass of disabled and young people who have low levels of education, no income other than government support and no hopes for the future.
Government and civil society approach disability with charity oriented, short term campaigns, which fail to address the problem at a systematic level. Even worse, many disabled organizations promote a pity culture based on creating a guilty conscious at the expense of creating a public image that disabled are needy and weak people. Turkey’s bourgeoning youth movement turns a blind eye to disabled youth, occasionally running charity campaigns and showing no concern to include them in their activities as active contributors. With the lack of opportunities to participate in life, disabled youth are also left without good role models they can look up to.
The result is disabled and non-disabled youth growing up and living totally segregated lives, alien to one another’s circumstances. Moreover, catalyzed by the lack of good role models, the disabled youth also start to live in a self-fulling prophecy where they feel and perceive themselves as useless and passive individuals, internalizing learned helplessness. As such, the persistence of a culture that pities and objectifies the disabled, the prevalence of segregated and charity based interventions, and the lack of role models to challenge stereotypes keeps preventing disabled youth to become active contributors to Turkish society.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Turkey’s approach to disability remains plagued by a culture that pities and objectifies the disabled, which results in segregated and charity based interventions, and a lack of role models to challenge existing stereotypes. Youth emerges as both a critical life period and important societal group with the potential to break this vicious cycle, yet without interventions that integrate and empower the youth and disabled, this opportunity goes amiss.
Celal Karadogan aims to turn the double disadvantage of being disabled and young into an advantage and a tool to develop empathy among all youth in Turkey. In his Youth and Disabled Sports Club, Celal runs a comprehensive support program including sports activities, socializing opportunities, education support, career guidance and mentoring, targeting both disabled and non-disabled youth.
The program and Club serve as a unique space free from prejudices and social barriers, where everyone can be equal yet different. A physically disabled boy teaching others basketball or a girl with learning disabilities tutoring a friend become usual, defying the stereotypes and notions around what disabled youth can or cannot do. As a result, youth without disabilities develop empathy and ability to live with differences, while disabled youth find opportunities to lead active and meaningful lives.
Celal is currently spreading his approach and work so that more empowerment spaces such as his club exists for disabled and non-disabled youth. He is consulting country level youth and disability organizations, while also forming a network of disabled sports clubs in 110 locations across the country. Celal’s ultimate goal is to mainstream disability in not only youth organizations but in NGOs from all fields, be them youth, environment, women’s or human rights focused.