My Dream Partner—A Young Turkish Changemaker

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Duygu Kayaman speaking at TEDx Istanbul in 2014.

At age two and a half years old, young Duygu Kayaman of Turkey lost her sight due to a lump behind her visual nerve. Not willing to give up, she began her educational journey at Turkan Sabanci Primary and Vocational School for the Blind and graduated from Haliç University with a degree in psychology. Now aged 26 years old, Kayaman has channeled her disability towards great social innovation in her country.

Kayaman created a mobile application called “My Dream Partner” in an attempt to make daily activities for the visually impaired easier and simpler through using voice-recognition technology. With the support of Turkcell, a leading mobile phone operator in Turkey, Kayaman developed an application that gave blind people the ability to access news, articles, books, and many other resources. The application also provided them with training and easy access to primary locations including hospitals, banks, schools, markets, and pharmacies. As of February 2015, more than 110,000 visually impaired Turks are using “My Dream Partner.”

When the “Innovators Under 35 Competition” of MIT Technology Review included Turkey for the first time in 2014, Duygu Kayaman was awarded “Social Innovator of the Year.” She was the winner of the first regional edition along with 10 other Turks and one of three women under the age of 35. She is now an “inside sales specialist” working at Microsoft.

In addition to her phone application, Kayaman worked in the “Blind Leaders” Project of the Young Guru Academy, an establishment that raises socially conscious leaders, which she later became the leader of. This initiative, which supported the development of the application, became one of Kayaman’s various venues to share her experiences and journey to encourage other youths with disabilities in her country to break barriers together.