Networking for more inclusion on the primary labor market

Recently, the special interest group Selbstbestimmt Leben in Deutschland (English: Self-Determined Living in German), ISL) was looking for ambassadors for inclusion – and Christian Habl is one of them. He wants to show that inclusion is possible and how it can be implemented. With his nationwide network to promote integrated employment of persons with disabilities, he also actively contributes by implementing the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and promotes its stated right to self-representation and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

05/04/2015

When Habl and 20 members founded the association in January of 2013, he already had quite an interesting (professional) resume under his belt. Christian Habl has dedicated his life entirely to workplace inclusion, because he experienced first-hand how difficult it is to break into the primary labor market.
Photo: Christian Habl

Christian Habl; © privat

Nothing about us without us!

Habl has left-sided hemiparesis, which primarily affects his left arm. After he had finished his general education, he first encountered difficulties while searching for an apprenticeship. After an internship at a nursery school, he trained to become an office administrator. He was subsequently unemployed for two years. To escape this situation initially, he completed a secondary training to become an insurance agent and was afterward self-employed until 2012. Then he was unemployed again.

Today there are approximately 30 members in his association, which includes a large variety of persons with and without disabilities, ranging from senior citizens, entrepreneurs, pastors, school principals all the way to computer or social scientists. Being a registered association now makes it easier for Habl to contact people and be invited to events to give lectures for example.

This is precisely one of the association’s objectives: "We want to be represented at expert conferences, thus giving persons with disabilities a voice," says Habl. He often experienced that persons who are directly affected by this, are rarely represented at these kinds of conferences. Generally, decisions are consequently made without them. "This is why our guiding principle ‘nothing about us without us‘ is commensurate with the spirit of the UNCRPD." And since Habl himself also doesn’t know, what it is like to be in a wheelchair or blind for instance, he seeks special advice for certain questions during the consultations.
Photo: Christian Habl in a conversation

In order to widen his network, Christian Habl prefers to get in contact personally with the people; © private

Hidden experts

The network Habl founded finds employment for persons with disabilities on the primary labor market and tries to build cooperation by assisting companies on their way to a more inclusive corporate philosophy.

"Unfortunately, persons with disabilities are often underestimated," Habl sums up his experiences. "They also receive little or no attention when it comes to the frequently lamented skills shortage." And yet there are definitely well educated persons with disabilities, but they are rarely being employed. "There are experts out there, you just need to recognize them as such," Habl continues.

In his experience, many keep their disability a secret during their job search when it is not obviously apparent, because they expect to stand a better chance on the labor market. "Just interacting with persons with disabilities alone is still so unfamiliar to many that it represents an obstacle that can often not be overcome," Habl points out.

However, once employees with disabilities have been hired, employers usually always say that the experience is great and that they are fully satisfied. What’s more, these employers are also more willing to hire more employees with a disability in the future.

This is why companies should be better educated in the future. "If they knew about the funding opportunities, they would likely also hire more people," Habl suspects. "Employers‘ lack of knowledge is the main barrier to the primary labor market."
Photo: Christian Habl giving a lecture

As an ambassador for inclusion Christian Habl is giving lectures on a regular basis; © private

Being a part of something – also in the professional life

"Aside from the educational sector, the job market is definitely one of the most important points when it comes to the subject of inclusion," says Habl. In his opinion, everything would be so much easier if the primary labor market would also be truly open to persons with disabilities. "Work is the foundation of everything; work means money. And having money means social engagement. What’s more, holding down a job gives many people a sense of purpose and fulfills them."

For professional and thus also social participation to become a reality as soon as possible, Habl in his capacity as an ambassador of inclusion wants to set up a nationwide helpline for workplace inclusion. He wants to be available as a contact for stakeholders in economy, society and politics and be an active part of Germany’s inclusion process.

Photo: Nadine Lormis; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann


Nadine Lormis
(Translated by Elena O'Meara.)
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