Always be present – participation thanks to a robot
Sailing is a matter of the heart for Elke Paatz. She has already convinced many people at REHACARE 2022 that the sport can also be practised inclusively – and the next presentation is already planned. Which body part she would like for her telepresence robot Robbi and how she rolls otherwise, she tells us on REHACARE.com.
Name: Elke Paatz Age: 32 City: Brunsbüttel, Germany Occupation: Responsible for inclusive sailing at the German Sailing Association e.V. Disability: Damage to the nerves of the legs (due to the level of the damage, this means that I can only lie down in a wheelchair except for short periods)
Elke Paatz: When I have laughed properly at least once.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Elke Paatz: For me, my telepresence robot – affectionately called Robbi – is indispensable at work. Due to my limitation, I can almost only lie down, which makes it impossible for me to be on site in the office or at events as part of my work every day. With Robbi's help, however, I can always be there – whether in Hamburg, Düsseldorf or Berlin – and, for example, advise people interested in inclusive sailing at trade fairs, give a lecture or be present at a meeting of my department. While Robbi is at the respective location, I connect to the robot with my laptop, control its movements and can see and hear everything. Conversely, my counterpart can hear me and see me on the robot's display.
[Editor's note: Anyone who would like to experience a lecture by Elke Paatz with the help of Robbi can do so at REHACARE 2023: On Saturday, 16 September, at 12:30 p.m., Elke Paatz will give a talk on her heartfelt topic "Sailing with a disability" this way at TREFFPUNKT REHACARE (Hall 6 / Stand F07).]
What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Elke Paatz: I would like my fellow human beings not to primarily see the disability, but the person behind it. For me, a person is defined by what they think, say, feel and how they act – not by their disability. Because that is not something they have chosen, nor can they influence it. If the focus is on the person with his or her character and abilities and not on the disability, this is the key to inclusion in my opinion and experience.
Which assistive device would urgently need to be invented and/or improved?
Elke Paatz: I would like to have an arm on my telepresence robot. Then I could open doors by myself.
Her telepresence robot Robbi enables Elke Paatz to participate in events and actively exchange experiences with other people.
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you?
Elke Paatz: That after I acquired the physical disability, I mustered the strength to first complete my studies out of bed and then look for a job.
It took courage for me to strive for a normal job that corresponds to my wishes and my education and to go through with it, even though I was repeatedly told in advance that I would never be able to work.
I was helped by my family and friends who believed in me.
What can the assistive technology industry learn from the Corona pandemic to make life easier and/or better for people with disabilities in the future?
Elke Paatz: I think the Corona pandemic has shown the potential of digital aids such as telepresence robots or video conferencing, and that they can also help people with disabilities in their everyday lives and work beyond Corona.
If nothing was impossible: Who would you like to meet one day and why?
Elke Paatz: Barack Obama, because he is a visionary.
What was your best REHACARE experience?
Elke Paatz: Last year, the German Sailing Association had a booth at REHACARE for the first time to inform about inclusive sailing. The best experiences were when people with disabilities came to our stand and said "Sailing is nice, but I can't sail with my disability anyway, can I?" and they later left the stand saying: "I never thought I could sail. I'm going to try it out."