Full participation: paving the way to an inclusive society
Full participation: paving the way to an inclusive society
Whether it affects cultural, political, economic, or social life – people with disabilities have a right to participation. This was recognized and stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD). But how is society as a whole implementing this directive? How are inclusion and participation put into practice and what role do companies play in promoting diversity? REHACARE.com takes a closer look.
Often, even comparatively small changes help to make a workplace more accessible: For example, the optimal assistive device can be a keyboard with larger letters so that people with visual impairments can work better with it.
Living accommodations, education, employment, culture, leisure, and active involvement in political and public life – participation affects many socially expected life roles and activities. People with disabilities should have equal opportunities in all these areas to fully engage in life activities without outside help. This includes an apartment search, the option to attend school in a regular classroom environment, completing an apprenticeship or university studies and getting a job in the primary labor market. It also pertains to access to leisure and culture activities – including joining a sports club and taking an active role in its operations. But participation also means that people with disabilities should play a more visible role in society; not only should they be included in social activities, but they should also have an active say in these areas.
The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany) already stipulates that all persons shall be equal before the law. The Federal Participation Act (Bundesteilhabegesetz -BTHG), the Ninth Book of the Social Code (SGB IX) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD), which the Federal Republic of Germany joined and ratified in 2009, are additional directions that create the national and international political framework to guarantee equal participation and opportunities for people with disabilities.
The UN-CRPD also specifies that the Federal Republic of Germany must collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to formulate and implement respective policies to give effect to the present Convention including its participation and inclusion objectives. The German government commissions periodic reports on the participation of persons with disabilities. It recently published the third report since 2013. The report outlines several areas of improvement. In 2017, the Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) also commissioned the Institute for Applied Social Sciences (infas) in Bonn to conduct a representative sample to assess the participation of people with disabilities – the participation survey. The survey of 23,000 people with disabilities and 5,000 people without disabilities as a control group is scheduled to be completed this year. It differs from the Report on the Participation of Persons with Disabilities in that far more people participated in the survey – which includes people who need support due to complex communication needs. The survey also interviewed disabled persons in assisted living facilities and people with disabilities who live independently.
Sports drive inclusion and participation
You don’t have to wait for the results of the survey to know that we still have a long way to go before inclusive options are a matter of course. That’s because building accessibility – for example access to sports halls - is already a major barrier. There are certainly inclusive options from sports club sout there, but they are by no means meeting demands. What’s more, these options mostly stem from disabled sports associations or clubs and rarely from associations or clubs that represent people without disabilities.
There is comparatively little that arouses as many emotions as sport. Regardless of gender, whether with or without a disability, old or young - sport brings people together. Not only at major events like the Paralympics in Rio 2016.
Meanwhile, sports are actually a great way to promote inclusion. Where else do people from different professions and walks of life come together as naturally as in sports? Yet people with disabilities are shut out by being denied physical access in many places. Added to this is the fact that the rules of some types of sports are not suitable to include both people with and without disabilities at the same time. But it would only take a few adaptions and accommodations to make it happen. Unfortunately, joint efforts like those we see in wheelchair basketball or in para ice hockey are still mostly limited to parasports.
Things are not much different at the administrative level of sports. Not many people with disabilities are trainers/coaches, board, or committee members of sports clubs. They are denied the opportunity of active involvement and participation in these instances in the same way they face barriers to social participation. This was also a criticism stated in the 2017 position paper by the German Institute for Human Rights, a UN-CRPD monitoring agency.
The Research Institute for Inclusion through Physical Activity and Sport (FiBS) in Frechen, Germany, has been an affiliated institution of the German Sport University Cologne since 2010 and has since been promoting sports as an effective way to foster inclusion and participation. The Research Institute originated as part of a private foundation and has been a nonprofit organization (GmbH) since 2013, aiming to boost inclusion and participation through applied research. The Institute has already completed multiple projects – not only pertaining to inclusion, but also to improve and facilitate the personal mobility of people with disabilities to make their daily lives easier. Mobility training courses for wheelchair users were highlighted to hone their skills. After all, competent use of this essential assistive technology is not only gratifying, but also life-altering as it improves the user’s quality of life through mobility. And mobility plays an important role in participation outcomes.
Promoting and demanding labor force participation
While accessible leisure activities would be a means of fostering inclusion and participation in everyday life, labor force participation is just as important when it comes to inclusion. Assisted by education, of course. Far too often, children with disabilities are educated in special education settings versus regular classrooms with modifications and supports. It’s a fact that barriers to education contribute to a lack of labor force participation. Our REHACARE.com article titledEducation and Work: Inclusion still a foreign concept underscores why people with disabilities have to fight much harder for equal opportunities and participation. Unfortunately, graduating from school does not guarantee an inclusive apprenticeship and subsequent professional career that builds on it. Far too often there is a lack of opportunities.
But it’s great to see that companies are gradually rethinking disability. The !NkA project, for example, started as an industry initiative. The goal was to facilitate inclusive vocational training of young people with and without disabilities. The project was initiated by the UnternehmensForum e.V, a network of small and medium-sized and large companies. Supported by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the project created 38 inclusive apprenticeships in five years. After the project was completed in 2018, project coordinator Annetraud Grote talked about the experiences of students and companies and provided a positive outlook. Click here to get to the REHACARE.com interview.
Companies are slowly rethinking their approach to the employment of people with disabilities. The pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, for example, is already implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in a company action plan.
In fact, employers seem to gradually have a shift in mindset when it comes to their personnel policies. Projects like !NkA are by no means isolated cases. Boehringer-Ingelheim is considered a pioneer in Germany in its implementation of the UN-CRPD, especially as it pertains to workplace design, accessibility, and social benefits – meaning the company had an action plan to drive changes. The research-driven pharmaceutical company is a member of the aforementioned UnternehmensForum. The family-owned company values and respects the differences of all people and is committed to equal opportunities on a larger scale – whether it pertains to sex, generational diversity, sexual orientation, or people with disabilities. Boehringer-Ingelheim understands that diversity can be a competitive advantage and is the smart thing to do for any business. The Rhineland-based company is not the only enterprise that shares these values. More and more businesses are fully embracing their corporate social responsibility. Find out more in our article about corporate social responsibility.
For some time now, international companies have come to understand that diversity is important and defines our global economy. And the same applies to society because participation doesn’t just benefit marginalized groups, it also makes society as a whole better. In 2021, equal opportunities should no longer just hinge on physical and / or mental health, gender, place of birth or financial background.
"An inclusive society ensures participation, self-determination, and equal opportunities for ALL people. In my view, this means society must recognize, accept, and appreciate diversity and embrace all of its aspects," says Mareike Decker in our We Asked… REHADAT Gute Praxis interview. "For example, we must get away from viewing accommodations and supports for people with disabilities that ensure accessibility as special treatment and develop a solution-focused mindset as a matter of course. There are many ways to promote inclusion and participation. That’s why it is baffling to continuously spot issues in the practical implementation of these aspects – whether it pertains to school, work or other life settings. Far too often, people with disabilities face unnecessary barriers that result in discrimination and disadvantage. There are countless solutions, and many of them are easy to implement. There can never be enough awareness and education in this area."
Anne Hofmann (Translated by Elena O'Meara) REHACARE.com