Turkish firm reveals 9-year disability project results

ISTANBUL – A major Turkish telecoms company has released results of a nine-year project to increase employment among the country’s 8.5 million disabled citizens.

Turkish GSM operator AVEA’s senior official Fusun Feridun claimed on Monday that various firms had hired 3,000 disabled people over almost a decade.

An IPSOS survey of the company’s disabled staff also revealed that employment had changed disabled staff members' lives, such as increasing self-confidence, boosting chances to socialize and plan for the future.

However, some disability activists have said there is a long way to go before Turkey’s disabled enjoy full access to employment rights.

AVEA has been working with the Istanbul-based Physical Disability Foundation to increase employment among Turkey’s disabled citizens since 2005.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, the foundation’s chairman, Kahraman Emmioglu said that employment remained a major issue for disabled people. “When they are employed, they began to believe that their handicap is not a problem at all,” Emmioglu said.

Twelve percent of Turkey’s population is disabled. These citizens’ problems vary depending on the nature and level of their disability. Along with problems surrounding everyday access, employment is one of the major issues.

More than 75 percent of disabled people are unable to participate in the workforce, according to Turkey’s Family and Social Policies Ministry. Nevertheless, a 2010 Turkish Statistic Institute research showed fifty percent of disabled people want to work in suitable positions.

To overcome these employment problems, the government introduced a central exam for disabled people in 2011. The first exam took place a year after and resulted in more than 5,000 people being employed in public positions. The exam was repeated in 2013 and 2014.

The government introduced a work quota scheme in 2005 for private companies and public institutions, legally binding them to employ disabled people. For example, companies that employ more than 50 people should hire at least two disabled members of staff.

The state has also introduced various incentives, such as tax cuts, for those private companies that employ disabled people.

Nevertheless, activists claim that prejudice against disabled people in workplaces remains. For example, they are often paid the minimum wage although their contribution and professional background may command a higher wage.

Their chance of promotion is limited compared to other workers. “Some companies even resist hiring disabled people,” Emmioglu added.

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