Ufuk Kocak is a fit, healthy young man who wants to live life to the full.
In a recent interview organized by Likya World Diving Centre at the
Sentido Resort Hotel, Ölüdeniz, he told Fethiye Times:
I like to scuba dive, free dive, climb mountains, canoe, play tennis,
cycle… I am just about to start walking the Lycian Way.
I’m the kind of person that’ll have a go at anything,
as long as it’s active and fun.
The unstoppable Ufuk
This is Ufuk’s tag line. It is clear from this how he sees himself.
All he questions is how you ‘see’ him.
At the age of 22 I was an active soldier in the Turkish army but
I had to have both his legs amputated above the knee
following injuries I received in the 1999 Istanbul earthquake.
The building I lived in collapsed, trapping me in it.
Nothing is impossible
To accommodate his dynamic and athletic lifestyle Ufuk has a range of prosthetic limbs.
He sometimes uses a wheelchair.
As a result Ufuk doesn’t see himself as disabled, but differently abled.
He questions why he should he been seen as any different from how he was before he
lost his legs, or from other men of his age.
I don’t want to be seen as a victim and I never want to be subjected to well
meaning but patronizing actions, or pity.
Inspiration and determination
Through inspirational talks, films showing Ufuk participating in a whole bucket list
of activities, many of which would daunt people with legs, he is asking Turkish
society to consider the way his country (and the rest of the world) approaches
disability in the 21st century.
A fundamental right
Ufuk believes that every individual has a fundamental human right to live life as
independently as their disability permits; to take risks and to grasp opportunities.
He asks families to allow their loved ones the freedom to discover their own limits
and to offer support as and when it is needed.
Enabling and encouraging
Eventually he would like to see more support for people with different abilities,
enabling and encouraging them to be independent, according to their needs and abilities.
Education and support not pity
Currently, much of the equipment necessary for an independent lifestyle is only available
privately, to those who can afford it, and as support is mainly provided by families,
many of which have no or little knowledge about what to do, he believes education
for all parties concerned is essential.
Furthermore he asks that local, regional and national authorities to consider the needs of people
with disabilities in public buildings and to make sure that roads, pavements and communal
areas are also disability friendly.
The ultimate challenge
Ufuk’s story has attracted the Turkish media, particularly since he announced his intention
to trek along part of the 509km Lycian Way, a rugged coastal path linking Fethiye to Antalya
across some daunting terrain.
But it’s not just about publicity he says. It’s more complicated
than that. As Ufuk explained,
I am doing all of this for the nine million disabled in Turkey and for
all the soldiers.
An incredible journey
From 15th April with support from Özcan Şarlı, he is planning to cover 250 kilometres
trekking, 116 kilometres by sailing and the remaining 50 kilometres on an ATV (quad bike).
In addition, Ufuk intends to swim, water-ski, wind surf, canoe and climb, in order to reach Fethiye on 3rd June.
At the moment Ufuk is checking out the trail with Özcan.
Fethiye Times wishes him good luck for every step of the way.
For more information about Ufuk Kocak visit: www.engelsizufuk.com
If you are would like to support Ufuk with his work click here to visit DESSAT, the NGO supporting Ufuk’s Lycian Way project.