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Social Justice

Nihat Kihtir

Nihat Kihtir Removes Barriers to Participation through Sign Language

On 7 April 2011 Sabancı Foundation's "Turkey's Changemakers" program hosts Nihat Kihtir, who aims to promote and disseminate Turkish Sign Language in order to lift the barriers to social participation among people with hearing impairment.

Recognized as an official language in South Africa, New Zealand, and Portugal, the status of sign language in Turkey is still disputed. The government of Turkey first announced in 2005 that it recognized sign language as a language that can be taught in designated schools. Efforts to form an official dictionary and a special library are still underway under the leadership of the Turkish Language Institute.

Nihat Kihtir, a person with hearing impairment himself, is the founder and president of the Çankaya Sports Club Association for the Deaf. Through the association, Nihat Kihtir aims to disseminate the sign language in Turkey. For such an aim, Mr. Kihtir brings hearing youth and youth with hearing impairment together. He applies the same approach in a project called "No Barriers for Participation".

Supported by Sabancı Foundation's Social Development Grant Program in 2010, the "No Barriers for Participation" project features sign language workshops by Nihat Kihtir. Implemented by the Youth Federation of Turkey, under the leadership of Nihat Kihtir, the project taught Turkish sign language to 30 youth workers. Coming from diverse backgrounds, Nihat Kihtir helped youth workers learn not only the sign language but also the culture of the deaf.

Youth workers that developed skills in working with the youth have started to teach youth with hearing impairment about the social and legal rights of deaf people. Through workshops, youth with hearing impairment has learned to develop solutions to some of the problems they confront and therefore learned to defend their own rights.

Implemented in 13 provinces across Turkey, the "No Barriers for Participation" project is expected to reach almost 500 youth with hearing impairment and lift the barriers before participation through 30 hearing youth advocates of sign language.

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