Do not think so much, just do it – this has always been Boris Guentel's motto for already a long time. He wants a better cooperation in society and that people with disabilities are not prejudiced. Because everyone should get the chance to convince with his or her abilities. What kind of role his "Sensei" plays in his life and which challenge awaits him soon, he tells us at REHACARE.com.
Name: Boris Guentel Age: 54 City: Cloppenburg, Germany Occupation: Rehabilitation technician, extreme sportsman Impairment: Wheelchair driver, various physical limitations due to an accident (through no fault of my own)
Boris Guentel: A few days ago, when our Siamese cat vigorously was looking for eye contact, a conversation began, and in between he made almost human sounds. Simply divine, if one is entertained, the other one not always understands and in the end nevertheless all are happy and satisfied.
What have you always been wanting to do and why have you never done this so far?
Boris Guentel: My big wish before the accident was to completely walk round my dreamland Norway on foot. In 1993 the accident intervened and unfortunately it stayed only a dream. As an alternative, I have recently planned the circumnavigation of Denmark. With my handbike I would like to get to know the country and the people without any time pressure. Beforehand, however, my handbike and I yet have to master one or two other major challenges. The next Pentecost in 2017 when it is supposed to go over 1,000 kilometers nonstop.
Which person has influenced you most?
Boris Guentel: Undoubtedly, this was my fighting sport teacher at a young age. Mainly because of him I learned what is really important: Never give up, even if a goal seems unattainable or a situation seems insoluble. To get on the road, to believe in yourself and your abilities, and not to let others prescribe what you can do or not. These internal principles have often led me to grow beyond myself and ultimately lead to my goal.
Unfortunately, my "Sensei" (Japanese for teacher) is no longer alive, so I cannot ask him personally for serious decisions. However, there are moments when I close my eyes and still talk to him – and when I open my eyes again, I know what I have to do.
You have the chance to become the German Federal Commissioner for the Disabled. What would you do first?
Boris Guentel: As before, I would continue to work for the rights of people with disabilities. However, I would rather have the opportunity to talk with some high-ranking politicians in individual talks and to ask them about the reasons for the hesitant implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Basically, it is shameful what our country is doing. Many seem to forget that, without exception, everyone can become a person with disabilities from one moment to another. It is already sufficient, for example, to miss a stair step, to suffer a stroke or to have an unintended traffic accident. Everyone can be the next who is dependent on an accessible everyday life.
As a former municipal advisory council for people with disabilities, I had some good experiences of putting people without a disability in a wheelchair and let them change the perspective for a few hours. This practical experience has led many people to break down barriers and influence them in future decisions. Such excursions would have to be part of the compulsory program, especially for politics and administration, with all the consequences. I’m sure that we will no longer need to beg for understanding and the implementation of the convention.
Your life is made into a film: Who would represent you?
Boris Guentel: There can be only one that can authentically represent me and this is me. Nobody else knows better the facets and emotions that I have experienced in the heights and depths of my life.
I would like to be ...
Boris Guentel: Honestly? No one else but myself! My life has certainly taken a completely different course through the accident than I had planned or imagined at a young age. But because of this I am not that dissatisfied today that I would like to be someone else. Also not just for one day. I have arranged myself with my "second life", learned a lot from it and found my inner peace. I believe in myself and go my way always the way I think it is right. I determine my physical limits by myself and with the right challenges, this makes my everyday life always exciting. So I do not want to exchange with anyone!
Which questions would you like answered the most?
Boris Guentel: Why – in a country like Germany – are the concerns of people with disabilities still ignored in many places or simply not taken seriously? And why do many responsible people think it would be enough to have to discuss endlessly in theory, instead of simply going to practice? I would also wish that people who have not been spared from disability in their lives and/or have no contact points with us, respectfully respect us as fully-fledged members of the society. They should stop always just reducing us to our disability and thinking they have to think for ourselves and make decisions. We are all experts on our own behalf and we know what makes life easier for us. In addition, an honest dialogue finally has to be created which should lead us to finding compromises that can be implemented together and implement them in a timely manner.
What I finally want to say...
Boris Guentel: All is possible, even for people with disabilities. You only have to push your limits a little further forward!