Many people who had to leave their home country traveled in a wheelchair or used crutches. The stress of this escape was at times even more exhausting and taxing for some than for others. REHACARE.com spoke with Sigrid Arnade from the Living a Self-Determined Life Association (German: Interessenverband Selbstbestimmt Leben ISL e.V.) and Eva-Maria and Andreas Mohn from the Andreas Mohn Foundation about the Ability4Refugees platform that aims to improve the availability of auxiliary means for refugees.
How do you rate the refugee situation in terms of availability of auxiliary means?
Sigrid Arnade und Eva-Maria und Andreas Mohn: In Germany, it is often difficult for refugees with disabilities to receive adequate aids and resources such as wheelchairs, walkers or hearing aids. Generally, the law only provides acute medical care. If refugees manage to apply for and receive auxiliary means, it is usually preceded by a long nerve-wracking battle to where it might happen that a wheelchair for a disabled child is not approved until the child has long outgrown the aid it needed back at the time of application. This means precious time to promote personal development and participation in society is wasted.
What goal is behind the Facebook platform Ability4Refugees?Arnade, Mohn: The Ability4Refugees platform wants to provide auxiliary means for refugees with disabilities. Here, people can post the auxiliary means they no longer need and primarily refugees who need resources can indicate their needs. In doing so, the platform creates a "marketplace" where supply and demand for auxiliary aids and services required by refugees meet – provided that the resources are free of charge.
How can people specifically help at Ability4Refugees?
Arnade, Mohn: People who want to help others can post an ad on the publicly available "Ability4Refugees" platform on Facebook by writing in German and/or English and describe the auxiliary mean they are offering and post a picture, if applicable.
The auxiliary aids exchange is divided into three categories: 1. Ability4Refugees Living, 2. Ability4Refugees Mobility and 3. Ability4Refugees Communication. Each of these three categories features a subpage. This is where you can post about the respective auxiliary means, for instance, wheelchairs, walkers, white canes, hearing aids, leg splints, therapy chairs, rehab buggies. Interested parties (refugees, refugee helpers and accommodations but also clerical assistants from government agencies who want to help) can research what products are available and get in touch with people. But they can also post an ad on their own to find what they are looking for and urgently need.
What does inclusion mean to you?Arnade, Mohn: Inclusion means shaping the conditions in society to embrace people with various needs. People with physical or so-called mental impairments are then able to bring their spirit and skills into society and participate in life. They are able to be a human being and experience social interaction in an inclusive society. This benefits all citizens, whatever their gender, age, whether they have a disability or not, a migration background and regardless of any religious affiliation or sexual orientation they may have.
The concept of inclusion was popularized with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is today usually discussed in connection with the school attendance of children with disabilities. But inclusion means so much more, as was previously stated.
You first need to meet the basic needs of refugees with disabilities for them to lead an inclusive life. And this includes adequate supplies of auxiliary aids as affected parties all over the world know all too well.