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Dreams Academy

Author: Delphi Jarrett
Published Date: 15 October 2010

Dreams Academy is the main provider of a continuous program of multidisciplinary activities (sports, painting, arts, and so on) for disabled people in Turkey.

Dreams Academy sprang from the work of Ercan Tutal, a scuba instructor alarmed by the social, cultural and architectural barriers preventing disabled people in Turkey from participating in society. Ercan used his love of the sea to demonstrate that an Alternative World, free of barriers for people with disabilities, was possible. Since 1998, Ercan and his students have taken around 2000 people with disabilities to discover diving through the project “Diving is Freedom”.

However, in light of the obstacles this project faced, Ercan decided to try something else. His ‘alternative’ vision led him to set up ‘Alternative Camp’ in 2002 - widening the sports choices available to people with disabilities beyond diving. Alternative Camp realises the dream of ‘sports for all’ - bridging the gap among different abilities, ages, sexes, cultures and languages through the medium of sports. Over 7000 people with disabilities from 250 local and global organizations and 1000 volunteers from around the world have taken part. Alternative Camp has now been replicated across Turkey and has become a self-sustaining innovative agent of social change.

The vision of Alternative Camp has been embodied in the Alternative Life Association (AYDER). AYDER has produced alternative, innovative and self-sustaining projects. Dreams Academy is the latest in a series of projects that provide ‘alternative’ solutions for active involvement of people with disabilities in society. The latest Dreams academy project – the Social Inclusion Band - encourages “Arts & Music for All”. 70% of people with a disability in Turkey have been now been supported by Dreams Academy. Moreover, Dreams Academy activities are also having a political impact, influencing legislation around employment, education, sports and tourism. Dreams Academy is currently preparing’10 basic principles of a barrier free life Turkey’ - a declaration to be signed by public and private sector organizations as a commitment to the integration of disabled people.