You're never too old to realize your dreams – finds Sabine Klemens.Why her travel destinations range from the Caribbean Sea via North and South America to a dog sled tour with overnight accommodation in an igloo and what the wheelchair model admires most about the answers of her "How We Roll" predecessors, she tells at REHACARE.com.
Name: Sabine Klemens Age: 53 City: Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany Occupation: Nurse in the outpatient anaesthesia department Impairment: Wheelchair user since 2014. I have a progressive neuromuscular disease in which the motor nerves of all four limbs are affected (leg accentuated tetraparesis). Type 1 diabetic with insulin pump since infancy.
Sabine Klemens: Not Mario Barth (German comedian; editor's note), anyway. Situation comedy in everyday life, black humour, weirdness – something is always funny and I'm just a Rhinelander. Unfortunately, I can't start something with humorless people.
What have you always been wanting to do and why have you never done this so far?
Sabine Klemens: I can't think of anything. Everything I wanted to do, I dared or at least tried. In 2014 I became wheelchair-user "bit by bit" within a few months. All of a sudden the feeling of being finite was very present and triggered in me the feeling to savor everything life has to offer – now & immediately – who knows how long what will still work.
At first my arms had much more strength. I tested my limits and did things that never occurred to me before: Parasailing, parachuting, tattooing, learning to swim without leg function, monoskiing, sit wakeboarding, handbiking, quad tour (co-driver), paragliding. My feeling was to collect really nice experiences, because I can't do much of it anymore.
Diving was such a limit, the only attempt I failed at. It's a shame because the IDDA (International Disabled Divers Association) team is great, and in this inclusive sport the disability doesn't matter because the water has no barriers. But I can't handle it: it's really unbelievable, but in a whole pool full of instructors and helping hands I'm afraid of drowning at two meters!
Now I know something: I would love to make a trip to the north and see northern lights, ride on a dog sled and sleep in an igloo hotel with lots of skins. Unfortunately I already freeze to death at temperatures below 25 degrees, so it's difficult with the implementation.
Which person has influenced you most? And why?
Sabine Klemens: There is no such thing as the one human being, because "influencing" is the wrong word for me. Then I feel like a steered stunt kite.
My husband knows me the longest in all facets. Together we have mastered all heights and crises, been able to find ways and always dealt with each other honestly. My disability doesn't play a role. That's why his opinion is so valuable for me, he gives me so much strength.
I was impressed by the biography of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who, after her terrible accident, worked through all the pain and joie de vivre in her magnificent paintings. There are parallels, of course, that are almost forced upon me as a means of identification: the inner strength to process something terrible by using the opportunity to develop something good out of it makes me mentally strong.
In any case, I have always oriented myself towards people who have an optimistic attitude to life and radiate good energy. As a "freshmen" in wheelchair it helped me incredibly to click through the social media channels and get encouraging inspiration in networks from active and sporty wheelchair users who have shaped their lives well. I learned a lot there and adapted and implemented it for myself.
And last but not least: I hope that I will never lose my Pippi Longstocking part in my heart! :)
You have the chance to become the Commissioner for the Disabled. What would you do first?
Sabine Klemens: OMG – I am really impressed that all my predecessors in "How We Roll" like shot from the pistol could spit out a catalog of measures. I'm a bit slower, probably because of my age...?!? Before I take office again prematurely, without even knowing what the exact tasks as Federal Commissioner for Disabled Persons are, and what competencies I would have at all, I would have to google first. The fact that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has not been sufficiently implemented in Germany and that this urgently needs to be remedied has already been explained in all its variations on this platform – I can only agree with that.
From my own experience: I would pay particular attention to developing a catalog of measures so that people with disabilities are integrated much more into the first labour market according to their capabilities. Due to prejudices on the part of employers there is far too much unused potential of well-trained specialists with disabilities. The same applies to access to education for pupils.
My disability was acquired in the middle of the probationary period with a fixed-term contract, so it couldn't have been more inconvenient. Through willpower, luck and good performance, I was able to keep my job. Only after the contract had become a unfixed-term contract after two years could I apply for measures to "participate in working life" with my illness progressed.
This offers income, participation in society, a committed worker for my employer and also for me: the opportunity to have another cost bearer for necessary aids that serve the preservation of the workforce - for example, motor vehicle assistance, which also makes my everyday life incredibly easier in my free time. Although everything is exhausting and I don't create a full-time job, it gives me inner satisfaction to belong to it.
People with disabilities who are unable to work for health reasons, or who simply cannot find a job, are denied this assistance. This possibility and opportunity must be given to all people with disabilities who are able to work, equipped with the necessary aids and constructional measures to exercise their profession. And that income capping is omitted, like with every healthy person also, because necessary assistance achievements are considered as disadvantage compensation.
What is especially near and dear to you?
Sabine Klemens: My family & friends. Freedom & Self-determination. A dedicated, respectful and appreciative cooperation in dealing with other people without distance or assault – regardless of gender, origin, age, state of health, culture & religion.
It is a matter close to my heart that we people with disabilities can participate in all areas of life. We belong in the middle of a colorful and diverse society and not on its fringes, because structural barriers or those in our minds prevent us from doing so. For this it is important that we show ourselves and clearly express what we need to be able to participate. And not as "Moaning Myrtle" (according to Harry Potter) but with a positive and emphatic presence.
I would like to be...
Sabine Klemens: .... I don't want to trade places with anyone.
I would like to be a senior fashion catwalk model once – if it's okay that I roll.
I would like to be at the Caribbean bay, where you can swim together with the little pink pigs. :)
I would like to spend a year on the road with my darling in a wheelchair accessible camper on our way from North to South America.
Which question would you like answered the most?
Sabine Klemens: Why do about 85 percent of all wheelchair toilets have non-adjustable mirrors at standing height and pedal bins? Why doesn't this country, where even the degree of banana curvature is standardized, manage to standardize all platform heights with the appropriate (!) train access heights, so that every entrance to the train would be accessible and self-determined at any time?
What I finally want to say...
Sabine Klemens: A disability is not the end of the world. You can create a happy, fulfilled life – only differently than planned. Leave your comfort zone, don't postpone anything and don't care if you do it "at your age". Then it is guaranteed not boring.
Now I have written so much – a shoulder massage would be quite appropriate ...