Whether young or old, disabled or not – people should live in peace and happiness with each other. Also their origin and skin color do not play a role, when it comes to Iris Westermann. For her it is the person itself that counts. On REHACARE.com she does not only tell us how tolerance can work out, but she also declares her love to her husband.
Name: Iris Westermann Age: 41 City: near Heidelberg, Germany Occupation: Research fellow at the University Hamburg, PhD candidate and journalist Impairment: Brittle bone disease, short stature and wheelchair user. But all this is more like a trademark for me - just like my blonde hair and my blue eyes.
When did you last laugh heartily and what about?
Iris Westermann: I have nothing to laugh - with the hard destiny of mine. (That's irony, please have a look at my very last answer.)
What have you always been wanting to do and why have you never done this so far?
Iris Westermann: Traveling, seeing the world and experiencing different countries and cultures and their people. For seven years now my husband and I "dare" to go abroad the borders of Europe. We've already been to Asia, Canada, USA, Mexico, Carribean, Argentina and Brazil. We do these journeys completely on our own - without any assitants, sometimes with other friends in a wheelchair. For us this is an adventure. And there are still new destinations we would love to travel to: South Africa, Australia and Japan. But it is not that we did not "dare" to go there by now, it was just not the right time...
Which person has influenced you most?
Iris Westermann: My husband. He showed me self-confidence, strength and happiness about reaching small and bigger goals but also concerning things that seem to be a matter of course. He intensified my curiosity for life and other people a lot. Maybe this is the secret of our almost 16 years of happy marriage ...
You have the chance to become the German Federal Commissioner for the Disabled. What would you do first?
Iris Westermann: I'm not so politically active and would not be the best choice for this position. But of course I would campaign for accessibility of all kind and for people with different kinds of disabilities. The so called Teilhabegesetz is a very important issue in Germany right now, because everybody should have the possibility to decide about their assets.. A car, an own flat or a long-distance journey are no luxury and should be possible for everybody. But this isn't possible due to current legislation in Germany.
Your life is made into a film: Who would represent you? Iris Westermann: Franka Potente, she is a great actress and embodies pure joy of living.
I would like to be ...
Iris Westermann: relaxed on time. Unfortunately I am a person of the very last minute. Although he really tried hard, my husband was not able to change this by now. ;-)
Which questions would you like answered the most?
Iris Westermann: Why can we all not be open-minded and tolerant towards each other? Those who act wihtout any prejudices can experience how beautiful a colourful and diverse society can be. That's also something we experience while traveling. Interest in other people brings us closer together. We can only achieve an uncomplicated togetherness (which also means inclusion for me) when we treat each other in a good way.
What I finally want to say...
Iris Westermann: Having a disability is no punishment, destiny or hardship. And a wheelchair is also not the worst thing that could happen to a persin. No, for me it is mobility and liberty. WITHOUT it I am limited - a lot. For me my disability is just a challenge life has for all of us. So everybody has some challenges. You only have to understand that you have to accept them. So focus on what is possible and the chances it brings - not on what is not possible. And suddenly everybody has a lot of opportunities where they can pick the best goal for their lifes. The glass is never half empty...