Technologies For Life Without Barriers - Education (2019)

“The 12th Sabancı Foundation Philanthropy Seminar was held on December 2, 2019 at Sabancı Center with the host of Chairman of the Sabancı Foundation Board of Trustees Ms. Güler Sabancı and attendance of representatives from public sector, business, media, education, art community, civil society organizations and universities in Turkey.

Moderated by Yankı Yazgan, M.D. the philanthropy seminar hosted guest speakers; human rights lawyer Yetnebersh Nigussie, disability rights activist Anastasia Somoza, Gallaudet University student Cem Barutçu, entrepreneur Duygu Kayaman, founder of Infinite Flow Dance Company Marisa Hamamoto, dancer of Infinite Flow Dance Company Adelfo Cerame Jr. and self-advocate Robert Cem Osborn.

After American inclusive dance company Infinite Flow's performance, the Chairman of Sabancı Foundation Board of Trustees Güler Sabancı made an opening speech. She emphasized the philanthropy seminar's role of discussing new approaches in the field of civil society and sharing experiences. Ms. Sabancı added "Since 2007, Sabancı Foundation has been organizing philanthropy seminars in the field of philanthropy. In these seminars we bring up new approaches in the field of civil society and share experiences. In these days when technology is the driving force and transforming our lives, understanding of foundations and philanthropy is gaining a new dimension. We are witnessing the transformation of mind in the world. Philanthropy, which is essentially creating goodness by touching people and lives, now focuses on making a difference through more participatory processes. We, as Sabancı Foundation, approach philanthropy from a different point of view. We are working for creating pioneering models for our country. Our seminars that are held for 12 years and our Grant Programs that we carry out to support non-governmental organizations are both within this framework of understanding. In this year's seminar, we are focusing on ‘Empowerment Through Education’ in the field of disability. As Sabancı Foundation we say, ‘The right of education is indisputable’ at every opportunity and we have been supporting non-governmental organizations for equal and active participation to life of persons with disabilities for 12 years."

Sabancı also underlined the importance of inclusive education and empowerment through education for persons with disabilities and continued: "We know that persons with disabilities are one of the most disadvantaged groups in accessing education. About 40 percent of persons with disabilities are illiterate. In the process from primary school to university, many young persons with disabilities forced to leave their education due to lack of support for their needs. Therefore, employment rate is 22 percent. In one of the projects we have supported, the following words of an elementary school student received great attention: 'No one can be different because everyone is different.' This is exactly why we need to develop models to pave the way for access to education and ensure equal participation of young people with disabilities. We should never fall into despair and we will not."

Making the keynote speech of the seminar, blind human rights lawyer Yetnebersh Nigussie said: "In parallel with Sabancı Foundation’s ‘sharing what we obtained from these lands with its people' philosophy, I want to share three messages that I learned from my life. I was five years old when I went blind and everyone in my community felt that the hope for me was over, because in rural Ethiopia a girl's fate was to marry early and bring dowry to her family. But my eyes didn't see, and no one would want to marry me, and my family wouldn't get dowry. This situation turned into an opportunity thanks to my mother and grandmother who supported my education fearlessly. They always believed in me. They sent me a special school for the blind. Today, I am the director of Light for The World, an international organization, as an individual who challenges the norms by changing lives of persons with disabilities."

Nigussie also stated that the number of women with disabilities is higher than men with disabilities, according to 2011 World Disability Report and continued "Women and girls with disabilities are exposed more discrimination and stigma in many areas of life. I would like to emphasize that the leadership path of persons with disabilities can be realized by providing quality and inclusive education, adequate financing for early childhood development and empowering groups like women and girls with disabilities. Especially, empowering women and children with disabilities has a great importance in terms of changing their destiny. I invite everyone in this room not to leave anyone behind in the journey of sustainable development. Nothing about us, without us!"

In the 12th year of the seminar, contributions of new technologies and innovations to the education of persons with disabilities were discussed and questions such as "How can education contribute to the independent living of young persons with disabilities?" and "How young advocates with disabilities transform the field of disability?" were addressed.

Beside inclusive performances, many technologies and models from Turkey and all around the world that are supporting education and independent living of persons with disabilities were also presented in the seminar. Innovative technologies and models ranging from new generation of robot guide dog designed for persons with visually impairment to robot which is supporting independent living of persons with Alzheimer and dementia, and personalized educational cards for children with autism aroused great interest. Institutions that exhibited their technologies or models in the foyer were the following:

Access Israel – Experiential Activity for Accessibility

Talking Hands – Learning Mathematics with Turkish Sign Language

Aksaray University - Accessible Science Education for Students with Visually Impairment

Auto Train Brain – Mobile Application for Dyslexia

DEM Association – Demgoodcoffee: Ordering Coffee with Turkish Sign Language 

Down Syndrome Association - ACADEMY +1 Training Programs

Selin Alara Örnek – A New Generation of Robot Guide Dog IC4U2

Özdemir Sabancı Emirgan Anatolian High School – Robotics Team

EGED – Barrier Free Note Library for The Blind

Accessible Film Festival – Accessible Movie Experience

Fatma Nur Aktaş – Mathematics Education for Persons with Visual Impairment Through Origami and Concrete Materials

Greta & Starks – Accessible Movie Application

IoT Vision – Technology That Transforms Sounds into Haptic and Visual Notifications

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – The Study Centre for The Visually Impaired

Danish Association of The Blind – LEGO Braille Bricks

Light for the World – International NGO Working for Rights of Persons with Visual Impairment

Microsoft – Technologies for Accessibility

Robot MYLO – Personal Home Assistant

Tolkido – Cards Supporting Language Education of Children with Autism

Tohum Autism Foundation – Educational Apps for Children with Autism

Cerebral Palsy Turkey / Spastic Children's Foundation of Turkey – Personalized Training Contents for Children with Special Needs

Association of People with Hearing Impairment of Turkey – Bilingual Reading Development Applications for Turkish Sign Language Knowing Deaf Children

Twin – Braille Twin Science Sets

Zero Project Impact Transfer – Accelerator Program for Disability Solutions

Also, in the seminar an inclusive dance workshop was held by Austrian based inclusive dance school Lilli's Ballroom. Lilli's Ballroom believes that dancing is an experience that involves many senses other than sight. Participants of workshop experienced a new approach to movement.


Infinite Flow - Inclusive Dance Company

Infinite Flow is a professional dance company composed of dancers with and without disabilities using dance to inspire inclusion and innovation. It was founded by Marisa Hamamoto, a dancer and stroke survivor. Since 2015, the dance company has realized 200+ inclusive dance workshops and performed 100+ times. With a 3-pronged approach of changing perceptions through performance, building a global community passionate about inclusion, and educating leaders to bring inclusivity and accessibility to their own practice, Infinite Flow is focused on creating systemic change, breaking the stigma of disability and creating an inclusive accessible world where each person can thrive.

Lilli’s Ballroom – Inclusive Dance Studio

The idea behind Lilli’s Ballroom is based on Lilli Beresin’s (Founder) first-hand experience and her wish to create a space where blind and visually impaired people can dance without barriers. Lilli’s Ballroom developed a special didactic and training program, which allows blind, visual impaired and sighted people to discover the nature of Latin dances, using simple step system. Getting into the music, its rhythm and engaging with a dance partner has nothing to do with eyesight: it is also possible to learn dancing through other senses. When sighted people dance blindfolded in Lilli’s Ballroom’s classes, they experience a new approach to movement altogether.


Yetneberesh Nigussie - Human Rights Lawyer 

Yetnebersh Nigussie is a human rights lawyer dedicating her life for the promotion and protection of rights of all persons with disabilities in all aspects of life. After studying law and Social Work in Addis Ababa University, Yetneberesh has co-founded the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD) in 2005. Yetnebersh has received several international awards for her outstanding achievements in the areas of disability inclusion including the Right Livelihood Award, known as the Alternative Nobel Prize in 2017, the Spirit of Hellen Keller award 2018 and many more. Currently Ms. Nigussie is the director for advocacy and human rights for an international disability and Development organization, Light for the World. 


Yankı Yazgan, M.D. - Moderator

Yankı Yazgan, M.D. has taught and conducted research at the Marmara University School of Medicine (Prof.), and holds an adjunct position at Yale Child Study Center. He spent his childhood and adolescence years in İzmir. He received education in Bornova Anadolu Lisesi (middle school), Ankara Fen Lisesi, Ege University Faculty of Medicine, Marmara School of Medicine (Psychiatry) and Yale School of Medicine (Child and Adolescent Psychiatry). His clinical work and research interests consist of diagnosing neurodevelopmental disorders and application of multimodal treatments. In addition, he has sought to communicate cognitive science and psychiatry to general audience via regular weekly columns, public conferences and social media. Apart from these, he published numerous scientific articles in the peer-reviewed national/international journals and book chapters.

Anastasia Somoza – Disability Rights Activist

Disability rights activist, speaker and consultant Anastasia Somoza started her advocacy activities when she was 9, after meeting Bill Clinton for her twin sister to be able to continue the school in state education system. Later, she won countless awards as a result of her works in the fields of both women rights and disability rights. In the 2016 United States elections, she actively stood up for the Democrats and delivered speeches all over the country. In addition to the works she carried out only at her country, she also took charge in an education project for the families of children with disabilities in China.

Cem Barutçu – Gallaudet University Student

Cem is a former member of the Board of Directors of the DEM Association and a Turkish Sign Language (TİD) teacher in Bahçeşehir University’s project of Overcoming the Obstacles and Reconciliation Through TİD Within the Scope of EU Lifelong Learning Support. Being interested in philosophy and poetry in relation to the deaf, Barutçu also carries out studies on the Deaf Culture Festival project. He studies in the American Sign Language (ASL), Deaf Studies and Linguistics departments at the Gallaudet University.

Duygu Kayaman - Entrepreneur

Starting to lose her sight at the age of 2.5, Duygu Kayaman attended the primary school together with the sighted people through inclusive education, as one of the first examples in Turkey. She studied on scholarship at the Psychology Department of Haliç University, Bilgi University’s MBA Program and Regent’s London language school. With the project of My Dream Companion that is started under the strategic partnership of YGA and Turkcell, Kayaman won the young social innovator of the year award granted by MIT Innovators Under 35 and the future leaders to change the world award granted by Forbes Magazine Under 30. Duygu Kayaman works at the sales department of Microsoft since 2012 and leads the Microsoft accessibility projects developed for the persons with disabilities. Duygu Kayaman continues her works as the Vice President of Parıltı Support Association for Children with Visual Impairment and as a consultant giving advice to the companies about accessibility.

Marisa Hamamoto – Founder, Infinite Flow

Dance artist, stroke survivor, inclusion keynote speaker, and Founder of Infinite Flow - An Inclusive Dance Company, Marisa Hamamoto leads a global movement for #InfiniteInclusion.  After 20 years of dancing ballet and contemporary dance in both the US and Japan, Marisa discovered and fell in love with ballroom dancing while recovering from spinal cord infarction, a rare stroke which caused her to be temporarily paralyzed from the neck down while in college. In 2015, Marisa founded Infinite Flow, a professional inclusive dance company and nonprofit with a mission to make dance accessible to all. Marisa empowers people through dance and storytelling to think outside the box, disable bias, build new connections, and create breakthrough innovations.

Adelfo Cerame Jr. – Dancer, Infinite Flow

Adelfo is a competitive bodybuilder and personal trainer / nutritional consultant, passionate about fitness, nutrition, and physical culture, aspiring to be a successful entrepreneur.  On November 10, 2005, Adelfo was involved in a car accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down as a T-12 paraplegic. Adelfo was initially torn down spiritually, mentally, and physically following the accident, but after one year, he embraced his physical condition with open arms, and used it as a driving tool to challenge and motivate himself.  Adelfo started body building in 2007. His life has been transformed ever since.  Marisa called Adelfo early November 2014 asking if he'd be interested in being her wheelchair dance partner. Adelfo chose to take on the challenge and is having a blast learning a new form of self-expression.

Robert Cem Osborn – Self-Advocate

Robet Cem Osborn was born in 1994 in Istanbul and graduated from Enka High School in 2013. Working as a bellboy at Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel since 2014, Osborn can speak Turkish and English. Osborn is interested in photography and has held four exhibitions, one of which is an international one. As a self-advocate, Osborn has been a spokesperson for people with disabilities throughout his life. In addition to various press studies, press interviews and TV interviews in which he participated to change the perceptions of the people, he also made presentations about disability rights and took charge in as the keynote speaker at various policymaking institutions, universities and congresses, particularly at the United Nations Headquarters, European Parliament and Grand National Assembly of Turkey. He has become and continues to be a role model and hope for thousands of families.

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