Turkish entrepreneur’s dream for visually impaired

During her first visit to the UK, Turkish entrepreneur and student, Duygu Kayaman, showcased ‘My Dream Partner’ - a mobile app and web service which is improving the lives of over 160,000 visually impaired people

Duygu Kayaman (26) refuses to allow her own visual impairment to stop her helping others. She is the driving force behind ‘My Dream Partner’ – a free phone hotline, mobile app and web service in Turkey which offers its users information including the location of shops and restaurants, news and weather reports, sports results and access to a library of over 5,000 audio books.

The world is certainly sitting up and taking notice of the innovation. My Dream Partner has already been a winner at the 2014 GSMA Mobile World Congress, while the MIT Technology Review awarded Duygu ‘Social Innovator of the Year’ status in 2014 and 2015.

My Dream Partner also delivers voice-responsive training programmes in science, economics, mathematics, art and history, a crucial element for Duygu who believes education has a clear role in improving the lives of disabled people around the world.

She explains: “In Turkey, there are currently 800,000 people with a visual disability and 95% of the population is unable to receive formal education.

“When I was at school I didn’t have any course books that were in braille or audio book, but I was one of the lucky ones because my parents read all of my study materials to me.”

More recently, Duygu has chosen Regent’s University London as a base to study English in the UK, while considering the possibilities of expanding My Dream Partner’s uses beyond Turkey.

“Even in a city as modern as London there are many obstacles to face, such as reading a restaurant menu or finding your way around a building,” she continues.

“I was delighted that Regent’s converted all of the course books I needed for my braille reader before I arrived. The team here has also been very open to discussing new ideas around further enhancing their campus accessibility.

“My hope is that My Dream Partner will continue to support the blind and visually impaired. We are achieving many advances working with the Young Guru Academy (YGA) – an international organisation which develops innovative and socially-responsible leaders.”

Looking ahead Duygu states that her next challenge is to use My Dream Partner to enable visually impaired cinema audiences to enjoy enhanced film audio description and improve navigation in shopping malls and other public spaces with YGA.

Turkiz Erdogan, Senior International Officer at Regent's University London, is similarly enthused by the concept. She adds:

“We’ve been hugely impressed with Duygu’s work and will be approaching the Young Guru Academy to discuss how Regent’s University London can become even more accessible. We will also be calling on our international network of graduates to ask for their entrepreneurial support and ideas to help this very worthwhile project achieve greater success.”

Duygu has been supported during her UK visit by friend and associate Nurdeniz Tuncer – a visually impaired law firm owner and also President of the Guide Dogs Association in Turkey.