On Sunday the 15th of june i met with Raul Krauthausen. Raul is a activist for disability rights and founder of the nonprofit organisation „Sozialhelden“.
Raul has glass bones and sits in a wheelchair. I asked him several questions and a couple of them i will list in this essay:
Raul believes that people with disabilities are in a way sorted out of the everyday life. They are in special-needs schools, sheltered workshops, care homes etc. This results in prejudice and fear.
„Every tenth person in our society has a disability, but not every tenth person in our circle of friends is disabled. That means: They have to be somewhere! We are hidden. In „specialized institutions“. We are engaged in sheltered workshops, brought into care homes, because we are too expensive if we want to live alone…“
In our conversation, he emphasized, that people with disabilities are always associated with a cost-factor. But not only that. There is always a „special“ solution for people with disabilities. He gave me the advice, since I study product design, to always try to include people with disability into my designs. Not to try to find a special solution for people with disabilities but to mainstream it. This would be a big step towards inclusion.
We also talked about the „ Behindertengleichstellungsgesetzt“. (Disabled-equality-law)
This law aims to eliminate or prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities and ensures equal participation of people with disabilities in the life in society and enables them to independent living.
In Germany however, only the state is obliged to guarantee accessibility, e.g. in public offices, buildings, etc.
But if we compare how often we go to a state office and how often we go to a café, restaurant, cinema or supermarket, it is very unbalanced. Inclusion and participation can therefore only work, if the private sector must be involved. Furthermore private companies provide jobs, that may be also filled up with people with disabilities. It is unrealistic to believe, that the „disabled-equality-law“ is sufficient enough, if it only takes the state in the duty.
So to make a step towards an inclusive society, it must come to encounters between people with and without disabilities. But for creating encounters, we have to remove barriers. So the cause is the barrier and the result is the non existing encounter. For successful inclusion, in which it is no longer necessary to use term „inclusion“, we need accessibility.
I also asked Raul what he wishes for the social intercourse between people with and without disabilites. This was his answer:
„More normality. More everyday life. Not that someone needs to change his behavior, that happens naturally. I don’t want to teach a seminar with the topic how to interact with people with disabilities. Everyone will teach it themselves if we meet each other. This would mean, that we need to remove barriers. We have to open schools and universities for people with disabilities. If we would meet each other, we would learn from each other. I personally only learned how to interact with disability by interacting with disability. Its learning by doing. There is no school for that.“