Voicing Disability in Everyday Life*

In our everyday lives, we often happen to pay low attention to people with special needs, not necessarily due to ignorance, but because they do not get the chance to voice themselves – sadly. And even though the representation of disabilities has increased, for instance, Ellie Goldstein became the first-ever model for Gucci with Down syndrome to shine on the runway (Sim, A and Ho, R., 2020); we still do not discuss the topic often enough.

That is why the students of the Voices @ Karls organized an event called “Disability in Everyday Life” in May 2021. The panelist members of the event were Artur Budnik, Chairperson of the Karlsruhe Disability Advisory Council, Beate von Malottki, Vice Chairperson of the Karlsruhe Disability Advisory Council, Dr. Ella Roininen, Professor of International Management with focus on Gender, Diversity and Inclusion, Gabriele Schultz, Content & Online Manager of the Karlshochschule, who gave private and professional insights into living with disabilities, Karin Breunig, Member of the Karlsruhe Disability Advisory Council, and Marlene Kurz, who is the Project Manager in e-learning at BIRNE7. The event lasted approximately 3 hours, and the panelists were asked a wide variety of questions, ranging from their opinion of inclusion and integration to the everyday barriers they face.

Exclusion from Technology and E-rollers

In the introductory round, the panelists were asked to introduce themselves and what are their disabilities. A really interesting question was the next one: whether they had any difficulties joining the event on Zoom. For instance, Beate, who is visually impaired, relied on the help of Artur, so therefore, they were in the same physical space throughout the occasion. That was a moment when I started contemplating and reflecting on how the virtual world excludes people with visual imparities, and how many struggles they might have had throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns when everything shifted to online.

It is also very interesting that when the panelists were asked how they want their disabilities to be talked about, they answered almost in perfect sync: openly, with respect, and without any discriminations. Karin, who is physically disabled, has expressed that she welcomes all the questions – and Beate agreed, as long as the questions are addressed with proper manners.

Another impressive moment was when the speakers were asked about the obstacles they face in their everyday life, and the majority of them answered one word: e-scooters. The way that the electronic kick scooter users drop the vehicles on the ground after riding them, oftentimes causing difficulties, and creating barriers for people with disabilities.

E-scooters are a dangerous tripping hazard for people with limited field of vision when they are lying on the ground. Photo by Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash

Shifting Society

The closing round of the event allowed the speakers to voice their thoughts and what they would alter in the society when it comes to disabilities. Beate and Artur emphasized the attitude that people generally have when it comes to disabilities. Bringing together children with and without disabilities for example in kindergartens and schools would help to lower barriers. Karin has added that the youth, just like us at the Voices, should allow disabled people to speak up and help them in their integration. People with disabilities often get the feeling of the need to fight and speak louder in order to be heard or to get the support they need. We, the youth, both in and outside of the Karls community, should provide the opportunity for people with disabilities to make their voices heard and that they integration is better into society. We should not divide “us” from “them”, we should align.

Outlook for the Karls

As Prof. Dr. Michael Zerr and Prof. Dr. Ella Roininen also said at the KarlsPride event (stay tuned), the Karls should include greater diversity, whether it is about inclusion of students with disabilities or various new principles in teaching.

Article by Flora Szabo *FS – International Relations (B.A.), 4th Semester

Sim, A and Ho, R. (2020). We can model like anyone else, with or without a disability”: Gucci model, Ellie Goldstein talks beauty and confidence, VOGUE 3 December 2020

*Karlshochschule is an educational institution and a non-profit organization as well. We want to encourage individuals and young people to take responsibility, find their own voice and initiate change in a sustainable and tolerant way. Listening to different opinions not only promotes different perspectives, but also discourse. The content of this blog is characterized by the diverse experience and opinions of the authors, which may not be the majority opinion of the university, but provokes reflection and discussion.

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