【DE】”Meeting is better than enlightening”- Interview with Raúl Krauthausen

He raises his voice for inclusion, his words are heard and read. But that’s not enough for Raúl Krauthausen. He thinks that the situation for people with disabilities in Germany is getting worse, especially in schools. He will give a lecture at REHACARE 2022 (September 16, 2022, 1 p.m., PRODUCTS & NEWS@REHACARE stage in Hall 4, Stand H07) on how encounters can change that. In an interview, the inclusion activist explains why people with disabilities should not be treated like exotic creatures.

 

You are active in many fields: media maker, activist, blogger, author… What is your favorite thing to do?

 

Raúl: At the moment I’m particularly fond of producing podcasts. For this I created two different series. One is about activism. For the other, I ride with people in the elevator and interview them. I enjoy thinking about what I’ve always wanted to know about a certain person. An example of this is Sabine Werth, chairwoman of the Berliner Tafel. This is the oldest plaque in Germany. I spoke to her about whether she sees the expanding plaque as a success, or rather as a warning sign. Because the bigger the table, the more needy there are. You can hear the answer in the podcast on my site (https://raul.de).

 

Your commitment applies to the topics of inclusion and accessibility. How is Germany doing in this regard if you had to give grades?

 

Raúl: I’m asked that again and again – basically I’m waiting for the fact that I don’t have to answer it anymore. I get the impression that most Germans see inclusion as a tiresome topic. What they would most like to do is get it done and they can move on to other things. But it is not that easy. Because the more you deal with it, the more grievances come to light. I see it in a similar way to women’s rights – no one asks when they will finally be enforced. And now, more than 100 years after women were given the right to vote, we are discussing the fact that parties like the CDU are still male-dominated.

 

If I were to answer outright, I would have to say: When it comes to inclusion, Germany is in the lower midfield in a European comparison. Above all, Scandinavian countries like Sweden are at least ten years ahead of us. For example, all floors of new buildings must be barrier-free. But the Germans don’t like to hear that they’re not on the way to becoming world champions in some area.

 

Where is the fire the most, what needs to be changed urgently?

 

Raúl: The private sector and companies as a whole must be committed to accessibility. It cannot be that we still leave the field to people without disabilities – something has to change fundamentally. I don’t want to gossip about individual actions anymore, just because, for example, some rural train station got a lift. Something like this should be self-evident.

 

Are there any perennial topics or, in your experience, are some things changing – for better or for worse?

 

Raúl: Well, that’s the same thing again – the Germans would like to do well in international comparison and want to hear positive examples. From my point of view, we are taking a step backwards in this country, for example when you look at the education sector. In the 80s, when I went to school, I took diversity in the classes for granted – for example, there was the fidgety Philipp, the quiet Lisa… Today, these children are increasingly being diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder , ed.). And the teachers retire to the fact that they don’t know about it because they weren’t trained for it. Then the children are sent to special schools.

 

I believe that there does not have to be a specialist behind every student with a disability. The parents were not trained to deal with their children. In my view, joint education is a fundamental right that does not need to be constantly discussed.

 

From your point of view, what role does REHACARE play on the way to more accessibility within society?

 

Raúl: For me, REHACARE can be compared to an international automobile trade fair, where innovations in terms of technology and aids are presented and discussed. However, I would wish that the people who are supposed to use them would be more involved in the development of innovations. In my experience, not every new generation of wheelchairs is automatically better. I think it’s because the manufacturers are more in contact with the medical supply stores than with the customers.

 

Also, at the end of the day, people with disabilities don’t want the latest design of wheelchair that can climb stairs – they want there to be no stairs. The barrier-free environment is a social issue.

 

What are your expectations of REHACARE 2022?

 

Raúl: I look forward to speaking on the subject of Encounters on September 16, 2022. Because I think that these are completely underestimated. The motto is always: We should lower barriers through education. Posters read: People with disabilities also have the right to work, school, local public transport… translated as: Love each other. But that is a truism, in my opinion nothing is achieved with such statements. You don’t say that women have a right to all that has just been described. In this way people with disabilities are given an exotic status – totally inappropriate.

 

So that’s why you chose the topic “Encounters” for your presentation?

 

Raul: Exactly. Because I think that other people’s fears or insecurities about people with disabilities can only be taken away by meeting them – not through theories or information about posters. At the moment when people with disabilities sit in ice cream parlors or school classes as a matter of course and meet others, we would be a giant step further in terms of inclusion.

 

Your current book is called “How can I make a difference?”. With Benjamin Schwarz you met well-known activists and talked to them. What particularly impressed you?

 

Raúl: I’ve already told you about my podcasts. The book is a result of the many exciting conversations I had. However, you will not find any individual interviews in it, but it is about what activism means. An activist is someone who doesn’t want to put up with a situation and does something about it. Not everyone can do that, some are afraid of publicity. We didn’t just want to point out problems in the book, we wanted to explain connections and introduce people who take responsibility.

 

You want to overcome barriers. How do you rate the Accessibility Promotion Act, according to which many products and services must be made accessible from mid-2025?

 

Raúl: There is now a new bill for this, which I will deal with even more intensively. In principle, however, I can already say that the law does not deserve its name. Because accessibility is only required for certain products such as smartphones or apps. And let’s just take the example of an ATM or bank terminal: By 2035, such a machine must be designed in such a way that it can also be used by people with visual or hearing impairments without any problems. However, for people in wheelchairs like me, there are other hurdles that we have to overcome. This means that in 2035 there may be a barrier-free terminal in a building that can only be reached by stairs. But the question is also: will we still need ATMs or bank terminals at all?

 

About Raul Krauthausen

 

Raúl Krauthausen is an inclusion activist, founder of the “Sozialhelden” – a non-profit association that campaigns for social justice with various campaigns. He studied social and business communication and has been working in the internet and media world for many years. Krauthausen has been an Ashoka Fellow (Ashoka is an American non-profit organization promoting social entrepreneurship) since 2011. In 2013 he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and in 2014 his autobiography “I didn’t want to become a roofer anyway” was published. In 2021 his latest book came onto the market: “How can I move something?”, developed together with Benjamin Schwarz. On the homepage https://raul.de there is more information about the work of Raúl Krauthausen.

 

REHACARE Düsseldorf at a glance:

 

REHACARE is the world’s leading trade fair for rehabilitation and care. Every autumn, it offers a representative overview of help and current knowledge for a self-determined life at the Düsseldorf exhibition center. There is a look behind the scenes in the new PRODUCTS & NEWS@REHACARE forum in Hall 4, Stand H07. Participation in the exhibitor presentations in the forum is free for visitors with a valid REHACARE admission ticket.

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