Finally, at the very end of 2009, the Minister of Education declared that public schools in Turkey will be refitted to accommodate the approximately 85,000 students with physical disabilities that make school attendance--and life in general--a daily and nearly insurmountable barrier to equal opportunity. Ramps, lower thresholds and wider doors are to be installed so that wheelchair-bound students can finally go to school. Additional modifications include lower chalkboards, accessible toilets and nonskid surfaces on outdoor walkways. What will they think of next?
The 85,000 that next year might be able to get through the school doors will, I hope, amaze their teachers and classmates with their normal level of intelligence. Even more, I hope in some small reduction in the embarrassment felt by physically able (yet attitude-challenged) members of society who now have to deal with people they would otherwise prefer to keep out of sight.
I congratulate the Minister for her challenge to this immensely inert institutional discrimination, but I also wonder how much the EU accession process had to do with driving this change. I still feel regret for the hundreds of thousands who might have gone to school if only these changes had taken place just ten years earlier.
Link to news article in Turkish: Okullarda engelli öğrenci devrimi / Türkiye / Radikal İnternet