Either completely or not at all. There is nothing in between for Heidi Ulm. Perhaps this also explains her goal of persuading society to rethink its thinking about people with disabilities. What she learned from her prosthesis maker, what kind of socially critical questions the 19-year-old has on her mind and how a YouTube channel can help to break down prejudices, she tells us at REHACARE.com.
Name: Heidi Ulm Age: 19 City: Bolzano (Southern Tyrol) / Italy Occupation: Pupil Impairment: I was born without a right arm and with a deformed, unstable cervical spine.
Heidi Ulm: Above all, my friends and our mutual "insiders" make me laugh – be it at a movie theater, dinner or in a nightclub.
What have you always been wanting to do and why have you never done this so far?
Heidi Ulm: If I have something firmly in my head, then I usually pull it through. For me, it's usually only 0 or 101 percent. Financial reasons, personal fears or the difficulty of being a woman with disabilities could complicate my potential dreams. For example, I find it difficult to cooperate with new groups of people because I am constantly exposed to the gaze. That's why new beginnings of any kind are challenging for me, but certainly didn't prevent me from realizing long lasting wishes.
Which person has influenced you most? And why?
Heidi Ulm: It would be unfair to name just one person here, because so far many people have supported, motivated and strengthened me. My prosthesis maker plays a big role, especially in my childhood, who was a great support for me even in difficult moments and from whom I was able to learn a lot of wisdom.
I was also influenced by my girlfriend, with whom I was allowed to spend my high school time in a dormitory. She helped me to open up more quickly to others, to become more self-confident and was a super "room companion".
Of course my family, friends, teachers and so on also influenced me.
You have the chance to become the Commissioner for the Disabled. What would you do first?
Heidi Ulm: I would change a lot, because unfortunately (worldwide) there are many grievances, which non-disabled people are not even aware of.
My first official action would probably be to fundamentally reform the Federal Participation Act in Germany. People with disabilities should have the right to live without an income limit, to save higher sums of money, to attend a "normal" school, to receive an adequate "disability pension", to get their requested aids without lengthy/senseless bureaucracy and much more. Assistance, barrier-free access and a well-functioning medical system are further keywords that would require a lot of work.
Heidi Ulm would like to enlarge her perspective further and help other people. Since the 19-year-old is a stubborn woman, she will certainly be able to do this sooner or later.
What is especially near and dear to you?
Heidi Ulm: It is particularly important to me that not only political but also social problems are solved by people with disabilities. There should be change within society so that people with disabilities are no longer stigmatised and underestimated. It is important that everyone is given an equal place in our society and that we meet everyone at eye level and without prejudice. In mutual exchange, inclusion can work.
In South Tyrol I try, sometimes more or less, to get people to rethink their way of thinking – among other things through my videos on my (formerly active) YouTube channel "One left".
I would like to be ...
Heidi Ulm: ...traveling in distant countries to get to know the culture and inhabitants there and to complete my picture of the world. I would also like to participate in an aid project.
Which question would you like answered the most?
Heidi Ulm: Why people develop a greed for power and money. Why there are social systems in which one or more groups of people are disadvantaged. Why patriarchy has prevailed. Why politics takes place largely behind closed doors. Why man destroys his planet and why he does not learn from the mistakes of history. The most interesting question, however, is who and whether someone or something steers life from a bird's eye view and whether we come closer to this with death.
What I finally want to say...
Heidi Ulm: It is important to look at oneself and the world with critical eyes, but self-esteem and self-love must not fall by the wayside. We must also not forget that there is enormous potential in each of us and that we can achieve great things with our will.