Overcoming obstacles and negativity thanks to resilience
To live self-determined and not have to justify being human – these are Verena Engler's expectations of society. But what sounds simple often encounters obstacles such as stigmatisation and misplaced pity in reality. Why she is nonetheless grateful for the people who did not mean well for her and how she rolls otherwise, she tells us on REHACARE.com.
Verena Engler: That can be many things: When I am at work and the children smile at me or hug me; a pleasant conversation with dear people; a nice unexpected encounter on the street; a beautiful sunny day; being with my boyfriend or friends. For me, good days are when I am surrounded by a good feeling, when I feel good about myself.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Verena Engler: My wheelchair and my crutches. These are the two aids I use to get around in everyday life. I am allowed to use this support to be able and allowed to live my everyday life well.
What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Verena Engler: More normality, more acceptance, fewer barriers in their heads. I get carried away when people try to make decisions about me, trying to tell me what I can or cannot do. Or when they start pushing me into a role or box that I don't want or fit into (stigmatisation). I like to live independently and self-determined and I don't like to be told how to live my life.
We also need to move away from pity, away from "Oh, I'm so sorry", towards "Cool that there are ways and means to get from A to B independently with various aids".
Achieving her exam was a very proud moment for Verena Engler.
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you?
Verena Engler: To stand up against all odds – and the people who were involved. Not to give up, to believe in myself that I can do it. Believing in yourself is not always easy and I've had a few situations in life where I was really at my limit. It takes a strong resilience to always get back up and keep going, to say to yourself, "Now more than ever!".
Fortunately, I am that person and I am very grateful for the people who are and have been in my life. Some I could well do without, but even they made me strong and showed me how I don't want to be. They were a lesson and many others a gift. I am very grateful for that, for the support, for the good conversations, for building me up and giving me courage again.
The sentence "You can do anything if you just try hard enough" is absolutely unrealistic and builds up enormous pressure. To say "I can do a lot" is realistic. Because a lot of things are not everything and take a bit of the wind out of our sails. We can't do everything – and that's a good thing.
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?
Verena Engler: I think this has primarily nothing to do with the pandemic. Health insurance companies, for example, make life more difficult for us people with disabilities or illnesses – whether visible or invisible – instead of making it easier. Unfortunately – oh surprise – it's always about money and not about you as a human being.
People with disabilities and other illnesses are expensive, they need support / aids of all kinds. And because I'm talking about support and aids here, it makes me very unwell – to put it nicely – when I have to explain why I need a new wheelchair and then have to submit one objection after another, even though it's obvious. I often find that very unfortunate and also unnecessarily stressful. I would like to see more understanding, less rejection or refusals. Better training for people who work for health insurance companies. More appropriate / improved funding for aids, to expand the possibilities of configuring an adapted wheelchair with one's medical supply store, for example.
If nothing was impossible: Who would you like to meet one day and why?
Verena Engler: Myself, to get to know myself from a different perspective. To get to know myself from the perspective of my friends or my environment and to meet myself that way.
What was your best REHACARE experience?
Verena Engler: I have been to REHACARE twice so far. I enjoyed both visits.
What I wanted to say...
Verena Engler: I think if we start to see and meet each other – regardless of certain physical or cognitive characteristics – then something good can come out of it. In my personal opinion, people with disabilities do not have the privilege of being seen as more special than people without disabilities. Because we are all special in our own special way and first and foremost we are human beings – regardless of social, emotional and cognitive abilities.