The award-winning documentary "800 Km Hurdles" premiered for the first time at Istanbul's Kadir Has University, selected specifically for its disabled-friendly architecture and handicapped restrooms.
The film relates the journey undertaken by two disabled persons, journalist Hüseyin Eroğlu and painter Aydın Erkuş, across Turkey's Aegean coastal strip on the back of a motorcycle and its sidecar.
The recipient of the 2012 Culture and Tourism Ministry Award in the National Professional Category of the TRT Documentary Awards, "800 Km Hurdles" allows us to ponder upon just exactly how much thought we have given to the lives of the disabled.
As they finally manage to take the trip they had long been yearning for, the two disabled wanderers take the lead to travel on their own, rather than being carried off to some place as with most disabled individuals.
During their journey stretching from Istanbul to the southwestern province of Muğla, Eroğlu and Erkuş explore uncharted territory on one hand, while inspecting the vacation opportunities available to disabled persons on the other. How do hotel bathrooms fare? Do rest and service stops feature handicapped restrooms? Are there any means to allow handicapped persons to climb hilly areas in ancient cities? And how about society's look on the handicapped?
Hurdles in town still alive and well
Despite the "Law on the Disabled" that came into force in 2005 and which requires all cities in Turkey to adopt measures to suit the needs of the handicapped, the documentary reveals that little progress has been made thus far.
Mindful of the obligations stipulated in the law that is set to expire in June, 2012, Eroğlu and Erkuş discover that the introduction of a simple mechanism has allowed disabled individuals to enter the sea in the district of Didim in Aydın province, while high sidewalks at another location prevent them from walking on the street.
"In fact, there is no prejudice, but there is lack of information," Hüseyin Eroğlu said, adding that nothing had been done to assist the handicapped with respect to urban life over the past six years.
"The crucial point is the lack of a supervisory mechanism. The law comes into effect, but [no one] monitors it," he said.
A hotel operator in the documentary bemoans he had not been informed about what to do to accommodate handicapped individuals when he first launched his venture, even though the idea had not occurred to him in the first place either.
"If all rooms were to be rendered suitable for the disabled, then there would be no distinction left between the disabled and the non-disabled," Eroğlu said.
Murat Erün directed the movie along with co-director and photographer Altan Bal, while Cafer İşleyen from the band "Ezginin Günlüğü" composed the original track.
"800 Km Hurdles" made its first appearance before the public at the Istanbul Film Festival, and it will also be featured in the 11th Alanya and the 5th Documentarist Film Festivals. The movie is also set to appear at universities along with discussion panels to follow. (NV/OK)