“Disability Already Means, A Family Installed With Poverty.”
The opening ceremony of the Research and Application Center for Down Syndrome Studies, which was opened at Balıkesir University, aimed to reintegrate people with Down syndrome who are part of our society. The opening ceremony was attended by many people with Down syndrome and honorary celebrities from the world of Turkish sports, arts, and cinema to support them.
As part of the opening ceremony, a soccer match was played between beloved volunteer actors and people with Down syndrome. After this beautiful and meaningful event, we had a small interview with the President of the International Down Syndrome Federation, Mr. Muhammed Abdullah Tuncay.
Before going into the interview, I would like to give brief information about Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a genetic change, a chromosomal abnormality. The simplest definition states that the number of chromosomes in a normal human body is 46, while in people with Down syndrome it is 47. Despite the misconception in society, Down syndrome is not a disease but a genetic difference. Although there is no official data in Turkey, it is estimated that there are about 70 thousand people with Down syndrome.
– Can you introduce yourself a little bit?
My name is Muhammed Abdullah Tuncay. I have been in public service for 25 years and currently teach at the Faculty of Sports Science at Balıkesir University. At the same time, I am a member of the Down Syndrome Research and Application Center of Balıkesir University. I am a former national handball player and have been working in the field of social policy for 10 years.
– First of all, can you tell us something about your association activities? Why the federation for Down syndrome?
The International Down Syndrome Federation is the largest non-governmental organization in the field of Down syndrome in Turkey with representatives in 33 countries and 81 provinces. The aim of the Federation is to provide vocational training to young people with Down syndrome who are over 18 years old and have received academic education, to integrate them into the private sector and to give them a place in society and life. In addition, in order to create social awareness and develop a culture of coexistence, the association cooperates from time to time with sports, cultural and artistic activities, and international movements based in Turkey.
– In your opinion, what is the significance of opening the Down Syndrome Studies Research and Application Center? What is the mission and focus of this center?
The Down Syndrome Research Center of Balıkesir University, its facility, and the services it will provide are primarily to research the problems of people with Down syndrome, family problems, health problems, problems of participation in a full life in Balıkesir and its surroundings in order to work out solutions for them, especially scientific and academic studies on Down syndrome,
conduct solution-promoting activities with national and international conferences and symposiums, bringing together solutions, partners, and stakeholders to facilitate the daily life of people with Down syndrome and families with Down syndrome.
– What challenges do parents of children with Down syndrome face? What contribution do you think this center will make to both parents and people with Down syndrome?
The problems faced by families with Down syndrome are generally related to the education of the disabled in the areas of health and transportation. Above all, parents ask themselves, “Who will take care of my child when I die? This is because the adaptation of people with Down syndrome to social life is faster and more harmonious than for other disability groups. They do very well especially in academic education, sports and artistic activities. However, accessibility and economic opportunities, which are the biggest problems, are also the biggest obstacles for families. In any case, disability is synonymous with a family’s entanglement with poverty. Therefore, people with Down syndrome have more economic and social problems.
– What do you think is the reason why there is prejudice in society against people with Down syndrome? What can be done to reduce this prejudice?
Society’s prejudice against people with Down syndrome is due to the fact that they know nothing about disability and living with Down syndrome. There is a prejudice that they do not recognize the concept of disability due to a mental reflex. Therefore, society towards people with Down syndrome is inevitable; to protect your reflexes a little, keep your distance a little stays at the stop. In fact, if they research and participate in social activities, they will understand that people with Down syndrome can be harmonious, harmonious, and communicative. But there is prejudice because they don’t know much.
– Do you think there is a difference between the reactions or difficulties of children with Down syndrome and their families from different socioeconomic classes?
Not at all. With different socioeconomic problems, the problems of families with Down syndrome are the same, because societies that don’t know much about disability awareness in the social sense don’t accept it. They consider disability as a disease, a contagious disease. Therefore, unfortunately, disabled people face great problems in social life, in the neighborhood, in business, in professional life, in education.
– How has the pandemic period affected your work?
As in the whole world, the pandemic has affected many things in Turkey. In particular, the work of NGOs in the social sector has been greatly affected by their projects. The fact that our people with Down syndrome were at home for a year and a half during the pandemic set back their achievements. Therefore, the pandemic was the biggest obstacle in the areas where our people with Down syndrome are the most socialized, where they are in life, go to the streets, go to school and have the highest socialization. I hope the pandemic will pass quickly and our people can participate in social life.
1 MARCH 2021
BALIKESİR HABERCİ GAZETTE