Turkey’s Changemakers: The voice of disability rights: Süleyman Akbulut
Sabancı Foundation Turkey’s Changemakers Program is continuing to share the unique stories of extraordinary people who contribute to social development in the country. The 10th Changemaker of the program’s 6th season is Süleyman Akbulut.
What would you do if your life changed in just one night in your early 20s?
The answer to this question tells Akbulut’s story. He was physically disabled after a traffic accident in 1991, while he was studying in the Faculty of Economics and Administration at Ankara’s Gazi University. He later worked in the management of civil society organizations focusing on disability, in particular the Turkey Spinal Cord Paralytics Association until 2008.
Overall, Akbulut provided training to 40 civil society organizations through the Social Rights and Studies Association that he founded, providing guidance on issues ranging from civil society projects to legal struggles.
In particular, he played a key role in the change of approach on disability from a “help” basis to a “rights” basis, establishing platforms for other civil society organizations to adapt a rights-based approach. Throughout these works, Akbulut noticed the critical lack of data on disabled people’s access to society and ensured the recording of data through the projects he led. He also formed a basis for regulatory institutions.
Akbulut did not allow his disability to defeat him. Instead, it inspired him to go out and struggle for the millions of disabled people like himself. He worked to disseminate the understanding that accessibility and equal access to society is not a favor for disabled people, but a legal right protected by international legislation.
Through his tireless work, Akbulut has touched the lives of millions of disabled people in Turkey.