.hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} FETHİYE - A national assistance group for the blind is trying to continue to provide help despite the fact that state support has ceased. The branch in the Aegean resort town of Fethiye is mobilizing its resourses in order to gather local philantropists and concerned citizens to increase awareness about the problems blind people need to face in Turkey

Loss of sight could impact anyone. We could be born blind, develop an illness such as glaucoma or diabetes, or be injured in an accident. This could also happen to our friends or families. That is why an organization, run by the sighted, partially-sighted and blind, is an essential part of the community, both at local and national levels. It can help in times of need and provide support, advice and information.

The Altı Nokta Körler Derneği, (Six Point Society for the Blind) is a national group. The name Altı Nokta means six points and stems from the six raised dots of the Braille alphabet. Founded in 1950 by Mitat Enç, a blind doctor and professor from Ankara, the society became a public association in 1958 and now has offices all over Turkey. The Fethiye branch opened in 2000 is run by Mehmet Üstün, who, blind since birth, plays an active role as manager, helping both individuals with sight problems and their families.

Until the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power in 2001 there was state funding for the group, but this was withdrawn by the government. Consequently, all financial support has to be raised through local fundraising and contributions based on the generosity of the local population. Times are hard and without the government's support it is difficult to meet expenses for day-to-day operations, let alone contribute toward outings and programs for those in need.

Municipal support

Fortunately the Fethiye branch has the support of the Fethiye Municipality, and Mayor Behçet Saatcı is doing what he can to assist. But this can only partially compensate for the loss of state funding. To heighten the profile of the society in Fethiye, increase understanding of the issues and encourage inclusivity for those with sight problems, a discussion with a panel of experts in disability and community care has been organized at the Fethiye Cultural Center at 1:30 p.m, followed by dinner at Kemal Kara Restaurant in Çalış at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 27.

It does not need a very active imagination to imagine how difficult mobility must be for the visually impaired. Despite laws introduced by Parliament in 2005 to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, the majority of buildings are still "unfriendly" for anyone with a disability. Sidewalks are uneven and access to buildings is often by challenging steps.

For those living in Fethiye, this will be an opportunity to take the first tentative steps toward drawing attention to those responsible for building and planning and the public in general, eventually creating an inclusive town.

Apart from making public buildings and spaces safely accessible for people with low vision, Six Points arranges outings for those who are very often kept at home, and also helps obtain books and newspapers for the visually impaired. Computers with speech software and other technology are important for visually-impaired students and professionals. Anyone wishing to join the dinner on Feb. 27, can obtain tickets by going to FETAV, Fethiye Belediyesi/Town Hall, the Manager Zabita Mudürü, or Altı Nokta Körler Derneği’s office at Cumhurriyet Mah. Dispenser Cad, 23 Fethiye. The tickets are 20 Turkish Liras, from which 2 liras will be contributed to the society. For anyone wanting to make a contribution: Halk Bank, Fethiye Branch, hesap no/account no.16000058.