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Decision-making processes: We want to have our say!

31 January 2024 00:00

In the run-up to the 2024 local elections on 31 March, we are witnessing political parties adhering to policies that ignore Turkey's 10 million disabled citizens. These elections, which will decide who will govern the local governments that play a very important role and fulfil important tasks for accessible cities, are also very important for us disabled people.

The decisions that need to be made to make the streets, pavements, passageways, subways, building entrances, parks and all the social spaces of the cities we live in accessible must be made with the participation of disabled people. It is a prerequisite for the views of disabled people to be taken into account in decision-making processes that all political parties take into account the representation of disabled people in the elections for mayor/co-mayor and members of the city council.

Approaches that see the representation of 10 million disabled people and their families of tens of millions on a symbolic level have capitulated to the ideology of "openism". The ideology of ableism is a discriminatory ideology that does not include disabled people in decision-making processes about their own lives and sees them as incapable of coping. Political parties should not prevent disabled people from participating in decision-making processes about their own lives.

Any political party that does not pave the way for the representation of disabled people in elections for mayor, co-mayor or councillor is pursuing an inconsistent and disingenuous policy on disability. Disabled citizens exist and are qualified to control decision-making processes about their own lives. The approach that ignores disabled people ignores society as a whole.

The fact that local governments have failed to fulfil their legal responsibilities for disabled people in cities for years is due to the lack of representation of disabled people. Local authorities should make all buildings and structures in the city accessible, starting with their own buildings, meet statutory quotas for the employment of disabled people, develop online Brailleand sign language interpreting services so that all services are accessible to visually and hearing impaired people, make their websites and relevant legislation accessible and free municipal services from centralisation and prioritise the principle of proximity to the people being served. It is necessary not to neglect accessibility legislation in building and authorisation procedures and not to grant permits for buildings that violate accessibility legislation.

Political parties should take initiatives to remove the obstacles to the right to vote and be elected contained in Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which our country is a party, and work to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in decision-making processes.

If the representation of people with disabilities is given space among mayors and councillors, the social visibility of people with disabilities will increase. But only if representation of disabled people is provided can the problems of disabled people get on the agenda of local governments in a fundamental way. It should be known that disabled people have difficulties in accessing basic rehabilitation services because there is no disability representation in municipal administrations and councils and no step has been taken in this direction for years.

Finally, I would like to say that we disabled people know that the representation of disabled people in local governments is both a democratic right and a prerequisite for solving the disability issue, which is a social problem in Turkey. The problems of the disabled cannot be solved without the representation of the disabled. For years, "non-disabled people have expressed that they will solve the problems of disabled people by singing songs." This situation should be ended and disabled people should be represented in local governments to solve the problems of disabled people, as they are included as subjects in the decision-making processes and this is an imperative of democracy.

We declare today that the political parties that have not cleared the way for disabled people's representation are being disingenuous when, on the 3rd anniversary of the referendum, they will be voting for disabled people. Either you respect the political will of disabled people, remove the barriers to representation and elect real and inclusive disabled mayors and councillors, or you take your "non-disabled love seeds" in hand for us! The representation of disabled people in the local elections will be a litmus test for the political parties that failed in the TBMM elections.

We proclaim to the public with respect!