What is especially near and dear to you?
Paul Ittenbach: I love carnival (English: Mardi Gras). My family and I are members of an inclusive Mardi Gras Club (the Siegburger Ehrengarde or Honor Guard), which – as far as I know – is the only one of its kind in Germany. I feel accepted in this club because it includes people with various impairments, who enjoy their time together and have fun and dance with able-bodied people.
I myself don’t dance in the club because I am not physically able to do so. Yet I am still included wherever that’s possible. That means, at our annual session, I am on stage and included in the show dances by making my own costumes from cardboard or paper mache for my power wheelchair. I also showcase them during the Mardi Gras Parade because it allows me to reach more people. I need several months for this because my health often fails me (the pain and my inability to move). Of course, I also seek help for things where my motor skills let me down, but I prefer to take my time and do things on my own. I am also trying to prove the point that it doesn’t matter how sick you are. Obviously, my self-made costumes are not as fabulous as the ones people without disabilities are able to make and wear but that’s not what’s important here. I have built a car and a magic carpet without having any prior experience. I just tried and did it.
I would like to be ...
Paul Ittenbach: Let’s see ... since I have my magic carpet, I would love to be part of the Musical Aladdin one day. Of course, I know that’s not possible because – for starters - I can’t remember any lines. But the thought of showing my carpet on a big stage is a beautiful and powerful thought.
Which question would you like to get answered?
Paul Ittenbach: I have a question that doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer, though I keep wondering: Why is it so hard for healthy people to accept and respect us as self-determined people? Why do they consider us a nuisance, as if we were freaks of nature that nobody wants or needs?
To all of you out there: We didn’t create ourselves and we didn’t choose to have a disability. Come and feel my chest and notice that my heart beats just like yours. We laugh, we cry and we have feelings just like you do.
What else I wanted to say about me...
Paul Ittenbach: I will never give up and I have faith that YOU! will one day look at us and see a human being.