Have you ever used blind faith successfully?
German Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired in Study and Work V.
You know the saying: Faith moves mountains. We are faced with a task which, based on our assessment and our knowledge, seems almost unsolvable. But we then draw from a source that, based on our belief in our strengths and talents, gives us the strength to tackle the task. Then we create a lot of things that we thought were unachievable.
What do you believe in? - Whether we believe in God, in a certain religion, in loyalty in a relationship or the finiteness of the universe. Studying our faith is an important and worthwhile task. Our stressful and fast-paced everyday life too seldom gives us the time to ask ourselves questions about our own foundations and values on which we base our actions, our thoughts and feelings. This requires openness to new paths. In any case, I wish you, dear reader, that from time to time you check your inner compass, your belief in whatever or whoever, and - if necessary - readjust it for yourself.
You can also read about where we find our strengths in this issue of horus. Siegfried Preis worked as a parish priest for 35 years and tells in his contribution about how he came to theology and to his profession. In his article, Savo Ivanic formulates how he found faith, while Isabella Brawata and Uwe Boysen describe why they would not call themselves believers.
What it feels like to take part in a seminar in silence as a blind person, you can read about it in Beate Schultes' text. In an interview with Andrea Katemann, Barbara Brusius presents the work of the umbrella organization for Protestant pastoral care for the blind and visually impaired (DeBeSS).
And Rolf Stagge takes us to the Central African Republic in his article and reports on a school for the blind there, which was set up over 30 years ago through an initiative of a parish in North Hesse.
Stimulating read - I think it's worth it!
Have fun while reading
Photo 1. Caption: Claus Duncker is the director of the blista. Photo: Bruno Axhausen
Description: Claus Duncker gives the camera a friendly smile. He has short gray hair and wears rimless glasses.
horus special: special issue published
"Well?", Some horus subscribers to the black print edition will have wondered, "why am I getting two editions this time?" This is due to the aftermath of the 100th anniversary of blista and DVBS. In the anniversary year, more precisely on September 23, 2016, the DVBS organized the megatrend digitalization conference. The impulses that emerged in the workshops there, the stimulating lectures and the demands made by the plenum: No digitization without accessibility should, according to the wish of many, find an appropriate format. Supplemented by further articles and ideas on how participation can succeed in the various areas affected by digitization, the special issue horus special VIII: Digitization and Participation was created.
Preview of horus 4/2017: Opportunities for participation
The next issue of horus will be devoted to the main topic of participation opportunities. What associations does this term have in you? What experiences have you made with institutions and offices, for example, when you have called for participation or compensation for disadvantages, e. B. in the case of examinations? Or are you currently researching this topic?
Illustration: Title page of horus special digitization and participation.
Always think about accessibility right from the start - Interview with Pastor Barbara Brusius
Katemann: Ms. Brusius, you work for the umbrella organization for the Protestant pastoral care for the blind and visually impaired (DeBeSS). As far as I know, one of your tasks is to network with other institutions, which then implement material in a barrier-free form for blind and visually impaired people on your behalf. Am I seeing this correctly?
Brusius: There are four keywords that can be used to summarize our work for people who do not know it. They are: Networking, supporting, sensitizing and informing. The keyword "networking" includes cooperation with other institutions in order to be able to offer barrier-free material for blind and visually impaired people. This is also about material that is needed for the offers in the regional churches on site.
Katemann: Otherwise, how do you support the regional churches?
Brusius: We support the regional churches not only with materials and advice, but also by organizing advanced training courses, specialist meetings and conferences related to the field of pastoral care for the blind and visually impaired. Good cooperation with our Catholic colleagues is also important to us. We also want to be well networked with all organizations for self-help for the blind and visually impaired.
Katemann: It is certainly not always easy to sensitize people within the regional church to the needs of blind and visually impaired people.
Brusius: When you talk about accessibility, everyone immediately thinks of a wheelchair user or people with walking difficulties. The needs of blind and visually impaired people are often not well known. We offer information brochures so that congregations get an idea of what can be done, so that church services, for example, can really offer a home.
Katemann: With the variety of materials needed in church work, one certainly has to make a choice. What are the criteria for this?
Brusius: First of all, it is always about basic care, so to speak. Among other things, we provide the evangelical hymn book, the slogans and various Bible editions. Both with publishers and the Bible Society we try to point out that implementation in a barrier-free form is considered or taken into account from the start of a publication. In the meantime, literature can be made available via apps, homepages or as so-called e-books. The possibilities are many. For example, if our headquarters of the Evangelical Church in Germany publishes something, we try to point out that we are doing this in different formats. Some publications, which are needed in church work, for example. B. produce an audio book from the blista in Marburg. Of course, central works should also be available in braille.
Katemann: Are there blind and visually impaired employees in your office?
Brusius: Our office is not as big as one often imagines. I myself am supported by a secretary with half a post. Because we are still in an office community with the deaf pastoral care and the umbrella organization for the pastoral care for the hard of hearing, we can cover things that all three teams need through joint staff, examples of this are half a management position and accounting. In the work areas of the pastoral care for the blind and visually impaired in the regional churches, two deaconesses who are self-affected as well as a blind pastor and a visually impaired pastor are currently working, who are happy to be consulted as experts on their own matters in campaigns to raise awareness and advise. It is always clear when colleagues come to events with their tools and explain things. This makes a lot more impression than if I, as a sighted person, do this exclusively.
Katemann: Does the pastor in a small, village parish know that DeBeSS exists as an umbrella organization? How well known are you within the regional churches?
Brusius: As an umbrella organization, we have existed in this way since 2009. It should be the case that every church community in Germany knows something about us. We tried to give material to all communities across Germany. Still, of course, not everyone knows our work. Some come to us because they can find us on Google or look up the website of the regional church.
In most regional churches there are representatives who are active in pastoral care for blind and visually impaired people. Pastors seeking help can also get advice on site there. They are closer to what is actually happening and know the situation in the respective regional churches better than we do in the function of an umbrella organization.
Blind and visually impaired people keep calling us to tell us that their community is still unsettled. The people affected also convey to us that they are not yet ready to actively demand their participation.
Katemann: What do you mean by inclusion?
Brusius: By inclusion I mean that someone who comes to a congregation can actively and equally participate in church services and other events. The disabled person says what they need and the parishioners are happy to see them come. For example, if he asks for a hymn book that he can read in braille or as an audio book, it would be ideal if a congregation could say that this request can be met without any problems. It is important that very different people help shape the church. Diversity is something wonderful.
It doesn't always work that way. As DeBeSS employees, we often have contact with people who are older and later blind, who tend to withdraw because they can no longer orientate themselves well, because they can no longer read, because blindness is still very exhausting for them, and they Struggling to cope with their everyday lives. In principle, many of these people have a parish to which they used to go regularly. Unfortunately, we cannot deal with each individual case with the necessary intensity and are grateful if there are other organizations on site that can help here.
Katemann: Do you also deal with confirmands?
Brusius: Oh yes, the pastors often call here and want information about accessible material. Parents also want advice on this. It's like school books too. You have to take care of a barrier-free implementation of material step by step. One project that is more aimed at younger people is the hymn book app. We want it to be barrier-free.
Katemann: Certainly there are some special activities for you because of the 500 years of the Reformation.
Brusius: Yes, one of them is the implementation of the new Luther Bible as a full text and full audio daisy book in cooperation with the blista. The braille edition is produced by the Pauline von Mallinckrodt printing company. The black print edition has just appeared on the anniversary of the Reformation.
Luther's intention was to use a language that would be understood by people living in his time. Of course, the German language has continued to develop and change. Thus, over ten years of intensive work was carried out to be able to offer a Bible that is close to the Luther translation, but is formulated in such a way that it can be understood today.
We get the audio version from the Bible Society. It is spoken by Rufus Beck. When the daisy book is ready, it should not only be pleasant to hear and easy to navigate, but the text should also be readable on the Braille display or on the screen for the visually impaired.
Of course we also take part in other projects. Many people do not realize that there are many different areas in pastoral care. For example, there is a hospital, a prison and a fairground chaplain. Twenty-five pastoral care areas of the Evangelical Church in Germany are presented in Wittenberg in the "World Exhibition" to mark the anniversary of the Reformation. They don't just do this at one stand. The fairground chaplaincy service and their contacts gave us the opportunity to present ourselves with a Ferris wheel. Teams at the Ferris wheel will accompany the campaign for a week until September, so we will also be there in July.
On the subject of the Reformation there are an infinite number of projects with different priorities in the regional churches. So there is a need to make Luther tangible and tangible for today.
Katemann: When we were talking about doing an interview, you told me that you also deal with travel for blind and visually impaired people. Could you tell us something else about this?
Brusius: Every year we compile a list of trips that blind, visually impaired and sighted people can take. The trips are offered by the pastoral care of the blind and visually impaired in a regional church, but anyone can take part, even if they are not from the region. The list can be requested from us. It is a colorful compilation with different travel destinations and programs.
Katemann: Ms. Brusius, thank you very much for this interesting statement.
Information on the Reformation World Exhibition in Lutherstadt Wittenberg is available on the Internet at https://r2017.org
To the author
The interview was conducted by Andrea Katemann, head of the German Library for the Blind at the German Study Institute for the Blind (blista) in Marburg. In her free time, as a choir singer, she particularly appreciates the provision of text books and sheet music in Braille, also in church services.
The post contains 3 photos and the DeBeSS logo.
Photo 1, caption: Will be transferred from the blista to DAISY: The revised Luther Bible with information about Luther as a reformer and Bible translator. The Playmobil figure "Luther" was brought out by the games industry on the occasion of the anniversary year of the Reformation in 2017. Photo: pixabay.com
Description: The Bible lies diagonally in the picture. It has a white cover and a round, graphic element in the center, the Luther rose. At the top left of the Bible is the Playmobil figure Luther. She wears a black gown, a large pen and holds a Bible in her hand.
Photo 2 Caption: Barbara Brusius works as a theological consultant for accessibility within the Evangelical Church in Germany. Photo: private. Description: Portrait photo Barbara Brusius, exterior shot. Barbara Brusius smiles. Her narrow face is lined with shoulder-length, straight brown hair, and the bangs fall over her forehead. She has brown eyes and wears a narrow, silver-colored necklace with a dark blazer.
Photo 3: Andrea Katemann. Photo: Bruno Axhausen. Description: Andrea Katemann is sitting at a table in a wooden bench seating group in the outdoor area. She is wearing a black turtleneck, leaning her right arm on the table and holding a smartphone, the index finger of her left hand swipes across the display. She smiles. In the background a path leads downhill, on the right you can see stairs uphill to a building.
Silence and Listen - An Option for the Blind?
"What, you are doing a silent course? I can't imagine that! ”Indeed, anyone who knows me may not be able to imagine it. But if you know me better and know that my faith means a lot to me, you may trust me to go to a monastery for a week for a silent retreat.
I work in a job where there is a lot of talk: at church services, at more or less meaningful conferences, at school in religious instruction and in pastoral discussions with people who are looking for help. Most people in church professions are expected to give something meaningful about themselves, as always and precisely as possible for every situation. So flexibility is the order of the day. The voluntary silence in contrast to the many not entirely voluntary words in professional life is good for now.
When I took a course in silence for the first time, I was in my mid-twenties and in my vocational training as a community officer.At that time it was very difficult for me to remain silent, especially since one of my friends was there who, like me, was looking for every opportunity to make fun of the course and the other participants. Today I believe that this was the result of a great uncertainty about silence. In the course at that time, Zen meditation was practiced, which was about becoming empty and not thinking about anything. We had to spend many hours of the day on meditation benches, practicing becoming empty and free of thoughts. I realized during this course that this was not my form of meditation.
In 2001 I went to an Ignatian retreat in a very well known monastery in the Netherlands for the first time. The house is familiar to me, I know the most important routes. The sisters know me because I went there for courses as a teenager. However, I had never been silent there. When I drove to the course, I was firmly convinced that I couldn't stand the silence. It also took a while before I came to inner peace. At that time I did not try to distract myself with books, but spent my days alone with myself in my room or in the various prayer rooms of the monastery.
The Ignatian Retreat was developed by Ignatius von Loyola (1491-1556), who founded the Jesuit Order and was an important initiator of the Counter Reformation, which renewed the Catholic Church in the mid-16th century in response to the Reformation. One of the fruits of this renewal movement are these specially designed retreats, which can also be called spiritual exercises. It's about discovering God's word for your life and letting it work in your personality and your life. Ignatius wrote a guide for this form of retreat that anticipates many of the findings of modern psychology.
His retreats thrive on silence, in which impulses from the Bible are consciously placed. These impulses are used internally. The participant meditates in silence on the impulse, which usually consists of a passage from the Bible, and then writes down her thoughts on it. There are steps in the instruction that bring meditation on the Bible passage into a certain order so that one is not distracted in silence. This was also an important experience for me. It is not enough just to be silent, you also need instructions in order not to lose yourself.
These instructions consist of a fixed daily rhythm and fixed meditation times. Also important for the daily routine are the common prayer times and the celebration of Holy Mass, in which one speaks together, but not with one another. This structure is very helpful. However, it only works if the person who is silent is not too burdened by individual situations in his life. Anyone who is in a major crisis should rather not do a silent retreat, but choose a different form. There is simply a risk of being too alone and brooding. Intensive experiences during meditations can also be very stressful in times of crisis. On request, the leader of such a retreat, who incidentally has special training, is always available for discussions in such cases. In my experience, such conversations are very clarifying. They help to deal with the inner images, thoughts and ideas that come up in one during the silence.
How did the other course participants (mostly women, mostly religious) react to a blind woman who is silent with them? For some of the older sisters, I was the reason to break their silence. I heard them whispering about me in the hallway and often felt that they wanted to question me. As much as I was annoyed with the sisters, I was just as happy about the command of silence, which ultimately led me to a greater calmness towards the curious sisters. It became more and more indifferent to me whether someone was watching me or talking about me in a whisper.
If I do silent retreats today, I no longer experience such behavior from other participants. Perhaps curious nuns are a species that is dying out. But I often notice that every smallest occasion is used to whisper a few words into silence. Silence is simply not a natural state for people who depend on and live in community. On the other hand, it's very relieving.
During meals it is wonderful not to have to talk to anyone. I perceive what I eat much more intensely. I pay attention to how and at what speed I eat. Since the food usually has to be brought to the table, the house manager ensures that there is always someone sitting next to me who helps me very carefully. Of course, this person quietly tells me what to eat if I can't smell it myself. When I was on a silent course in another house and got my own muesli in the morning, it happened to me that I poured orange juice on it instead of milk. I could have smelled it and would have noticed the difference immediately. So I ate my cereal with orange juice and laughed at myself instead of being angry. Silence brings serenity. It is also wonderful to sit while eating and let your thoughts wander or to hear who puts how much salt on their egg, who is cutting an apple, who is eating quickly or slowly. You can't close your ears. But since I practice calmly, I don't worry about the other course participants. I only perceive it. We are all in fellowship on our own path. We don't need to talk about it. There is something exonerating about that.
In the last two courses I got to know another participant better, a policewoman from the Ruhr area. Since we wanted to talk to each other, we agreed to go for a walk during the lunch breaks. We spoke there, but differently than in our everyday speaking life. There were also often breaks in which we walked together in silence. For Saturday evening we had considered having a beer in the village pub and then breaking our silence. The bar was normally full, as it is on a Saturday evening. It was too loud for us. We drank our beer and went back into silence.
When I take part in silent retreats as a blind person, it is important for me to know well the house in which these retreats take place. That is the case in my favorite monastery. In other houses, before or at the beginning of the course, I look for someone who can walk the most important paths in the house with me. It is important to me that I do not have to use unnecessary words because of organizational issues! When these things are clarified, I can also get into silence better and don't have to worry about them.
In silence, prayer also plays an important role, as both serve to renew and intensify the relationship with God. The old forms of prayer, which are often frowned upon, such as the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary are very helpful for this purpose. I always wonder why so many people who think they are modern make fun of the rosary but rave about Buddhist mantras. Is there such a big difference? Both serve to focus and intensify prayer. In any case, praying becomes more intense in silence. You also have more time to do it.
After participating in many silent retreats, it is clear to me that I no longer want to miss this form of contemplation for my spiritual life. It's just good to withdraw from time to time and practice silence, not slavishly and bitterly, but voluntarily and calmly. It goes without saying that listening is more intense at the same time as silence. For me, silence is fulfilled in an inner dialogue with someone whom even the greatest words cannot fully grasp. I get closer to him in silence and I am more open to him. But silence is certainly also useful for people who do not maintain a relationship with God of their own accord. You can recharge your batteries in silence, become calmer, gain more clarity. Whether I see it or not is irrelevant. If I can't see, I have to make sure that the outer frame is clear. Then it is easy to be silent, to listen and to live more intensely.
The last day of the silent retreat in my favorite monastery begins with a mass. During the breakfast that follows, you can of course talk again. Each participant will then find a greeting card at their place, and congratulations on the good retreat they have survived. So it's not always an easy feat, this silence. Anyone who can stand it for a week has already achieved something!
Book tips from the author
The following books can be borrowed from the Deutsche Katholische Blindenbücherei GmbH in Bonn (phone: 0228 55949-12) or from the German Blind Library in Marburg (DBH, phone: 06421 6060) using the order numbers given:
De Mello, Anthony: Seeking God in all things. DBH order number 757691. The exercise book of the Jesuit founder Ignatius von Loyola (1491-1556) is probably one of the most famous meditation instructions in Christianity. The Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello leads through the central elements of the 'Spiritual Exercises' and presents them to today's readers as a surprising path to spiritual freedom.
Jalics, Franz: Contemplative Exercises. DBH order number 412142. Many people ask about God in the depths of their souls. The author, who has many years of experience as a retreat master, leads in ten steps to an immediate experience of God's reality.
Martini, Carlo Maria: Your staff guided me. DBH order number 496432. An eight-day retreat course that understands the figure of Moses as a spiritual model for today's Christian.
To the author
Beate Schultes lives and works in Cologne. She has been blind since she was born, studied religious education and social work in Paderborn and Cologne and works as a parish clerk in a Catholic parish and as a religion teacher at a community elementary school.
Photo 1, caption: Monasteries invite silence: cloister of the Alpirsbach monastery. Photo: Rainer Sturm /pixelio.de Description: View into the cloister of the monastery.
Photo 2, caption: Beate Schultes speaks as a parish officer during a service at the altar. Photo: private / Walter Schlesinger. Description: Beate Schultes stands behind the altar where the candles are burning and looks into the room. The heads of three children can be seen in the background.
I liked being a pastor
by Siegfried Price
Actually, I wanted to be a railway attendant. Somebody who rattles up and down the barriers at a busy level crossing - I would have liked that. Or a train driver, I could have imagined that too. But with two percent eyesight I had bad cards. So nothing came of a railroad career. But my interest in rail transport stayed with me all my life, perhaps precisely because it could not be affected by possibly bad experiences at work.
During my blista school days (1944-1949) I realized that the choice of lucrative jobs that were suitable for the visually impaired was very limited. Many of the high school graduates at the time decided to study law and made it into more or less senior positions in authorities and administrations. I didn't want to be just a desk clerk. So what to do
In my home village, where I was born and raised and where my father was a pastor, many said to me: “You can follow in your father's footsteps! Then you don't have to buy new books, you can continue to use your father's. ”That was not a convincing argument, but regardless of that, I thought about studying theology. After all, as a pastor, one is primarily concerned with the spoken and heard word. But there was something else: I asked myself whether, as a pastor, one shouldn't feel something like an inner calling, which was by no means given to me at the time. My religion teacher at the time helped me a lot here. He said to me, “Just start. Then you will notice whether this is the right way or not. ”That's how I did it.
I started learning Hebrew and Greek and grew into theology. The knowledge and insights gained were in part irritating, but in retrospect they have proven to be extremely helpful. Thanks to friendly contacts, I had the opportunity to study at three different locations - Marburg, Heidelberg, Göttingen - and thereby gain an even wider horizon. Then I was the parish priest for 35 years and I know today: That was the right path for me.
I met many people whom I was allowed to accompany part of their way. And I was able to pass on a message that is more than trivial formulas. The words and stories of the Bible prove to be lively and powerful, credible and stable over and over again.
I was not unhappy with my visual impairment and did not suffer from it. It was just part of my life and was normal for me. I know that it can be very different for people with sudden or gradual loss of vision. They deal with their experiences in very different ways. Whether blindness or visual impairment promotes or hinders faith - both are possible - would have to be considered in a separate article.
Author's book tip:
Hans Rupp: Don't throw your hand out. Notes, opinions, information on the subject of being blind and living with the blind, DBH order number: 273422.
To the author
Siegfried Preis, born in 1929, attended the blista from 1944 to 1949 and, after studying theology, was parish priest for over 35 years, including in Dienethal and Mornshausen (Gladenbach). In 2017 he will celebrate his 60th anniversary as a professor.
Photo 1, caption: Has everything been prepared for the wedding service? The work of pastors is diverse. Photo: pixabay.com
Description: View of a modern church. A man in a gown walks towards the altar, you can only see his back. The church interior has chairs, the rows of chairs facing the aisle carry vases with white flowers. In the middle of the altar there are two chairs next to each other.
Photo 2, caption. Pastor Siegfried Price ret.
Description: Portrait photo of Siegfried Preis, he turns his face to the viewer. His white hair is combed back and his eyebrows are the same color. He is wearing a dark blue shirt and a white jacket.
Incredible but happy!
By Isabella Brawata
I am happy for people who find support and strength in faith. Most of the people I meet every day are of the Christian faith. The majority of my Muslim acquaintances are not particularly religious and tend to reject religion.
At work I have a lot to do with people who are newly affected by vision loss. Many tell me that their faith gives them support in the difficult life crisis. When clients, who know about my blindness, then ask me hopefully whether my faith has helped me further, I feel almost embarrassed to have to confess to them that I am not a believer, that I have nothing to do with Jesus and God.
I was born in Gdansk, where I spent the first seven years of my life, one year of which in a Catholic boarding school. But: No, I was not mistreated or abused! At least not physically. But I was given the feeling of a strict God who sees all my sins, knows everything about me and disapproves of everything about me. The Pet Shop Boys song puts it very well:
When I look back upon my life
it's always with a sense of shame
I've always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
no matter when or where or who
has one thing in common too
It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin!
It's a sin!
We had to throw hay into a manger before Christmas to symbolize our sins and wrongdoings and to repent. The nuns in religion class described the terrible tortures of Christ in great detail: the nails in arms and legs, the crown of thorns, the lance in his body. And dear Jesus only had to suffer all this because we are so bad and sin so badly. In the church we little tots were given dark sermons about how terrible it is to steal, to lie, so that I left the church completely scared and intimidated, although I was not a thief and only occasionally escaped a little white lie.
I reject the Christian faith because it has given me a constant sense of inadequacy and guilt that I needed to get rid of.
Another point that has spoiled my belief in God is the frequently heard statement from my fellow believers: “God will heal you! At some point you will be able to see again with God's help! I pray for you! ”My parents traveled with me to some holy place, although neither was particularly religious.But somehow they apparently hoped that God would perform a miracle on me.
It is difficult for me to join a belief whose followers cannot accept me with my being disabled.
Even if I know that the Christian faith can be interpreted differently, my first and formative experiences were determined by the strict, punishing God, who only sees me as a pitiful sinner and who, despite many claims to the contrary, did not let his healing miracles work on me .
But while I am happy for my fellow believers when their faith brings them comfort and joy - regardless of which religion they belong to - and I do not try to dissuade them from their convictions, many believers let me - interestingly, so far only Christians and persons with esoteric views - not at rest. Unfortunately, I have to experience again and again how devout Christians or convinced esotericists try to convert me to their faith or to win them over to their worldview. Once two young girls laid their hands on me. I found that kind of nice and funny, but mostly it's just annoying for me when esotericists tell me confused stories about the power of the earth, vibrations, fields, seeds ... I get upset when I am approached on the train, on the bus, on the street or on the platform, at the doctor's, and even by a frozen food supplier with the request to finally find faith, read the Bible and find salvation in Jesus Christ or when I get materials in braille or on CD. I try to explain politely and kindly that I am not a believer and that I am in no way unhappy. But these extremely religious people often react angry or offended and make me feel as if my fate is sealed and I would have to burn in hell forever and ever.
Fortunately, most people are very tolerant and accept that there are many other ways of life besides their own worldview, because the world is colorful! And that's just as well!
To the author
Isabella Brawata works as a rehab consultant at blista Marburg. It supports the blind and visually impaired in working independently and successfully in their job - factors that can contribute to happiness.
Two photos complete the article:
Photo 1, caption: Purgatory - sin and penance beyond death: some aspects of the Christian religion are not a real help in life. Photo: Petra Bork / pixelio.de. Description: A white enamel sign bears the red writing “Purgatory”.
Photo 2, caption: Isabella Brawata. Photo: private. Description: Isabella Brawata laughs. She wears her long brown hair combed back in a braid.
God Doesn't Look For Flawless Ground Staff - Why Visual Impairment And Faith Complement Each Other
From Savo Ivanic
"How can you believe in a good and loving God with your visual impairment?" - I have heard this question more than once in my life. And as a visionary who thinks critically about faith, I would probably think the same way.
First of all: I did not grow up in any religious home. But on the contrary. My parents come from the former Yugoslavia and had completely internalized the socialist state doctrine. Religion was not forbidden under the founder of the state Tito and his successors, but it was strictly limited to private life. In my school in Stuttgart I had Catholic religious instruction, but I let it go through with disinterest. So I became a typical Christmas and - if things went well - Easter churchgoer. Later, the left-liberal to socialist-tinged climate at the Institute for Social Sciences and Philosophy at the University of Marburg did the rest to keep me away from overly metaphysical thoughts. So it was only logical that I was extremely critical of people who called themselves Christians. I often found them narrow-minded, uptight and hostile to life. I wasn't like that - and I definitely didn't want to be!
Two things changed that: A life crisis in which I went on a search for meaning and began to ask about the God of my religious education - and the fact that I met people almost at the same time whom I perceived as attractive differently even when viewed critically. They weren't bigoted Sunday churchgoers, but authentic believers who integrated their faith into their everyday lives and yet - or perhaps because of that - were open, happy and open to the world. I found that extremely attractive! So a strange and drawn-out process began deep within me that dragged on for over ten years. I felt the desire to be and live like these people. They radiated an incredibly contagious freedom: freedom in speaking, in doing and in giving, even in thinking and believing. I, on the other hand, often felt like a prisoner of my supposed or actual practical constraints, my self-centeredness and self-sufficiency and above all my own wishes and paths, which at that time had successfully led me into the private and professional dead end.
A turning point in life
What I first got to know and appreciate in others finally began for me at the beginning of 2005: The God-initiated process of a new life. He changed everything: my way of thinking, my beliefs, my values, my lifestyle, my desires and goals. I got to know a great God who accepted me despite my mistakes and inadequacies and has been present in my everyday life ever since. Whether in the office, on the go or at home. However, this has by no means led to a carefree life. On the contrary: I have a failed marriage behind me, several months of exhaustion depression and periods of prolonged unemployment. But I know that I don't have to go through it alone. This gives the word transition stage a whole new meaning. And failure becomes a new beginning ...
Imperfections and weaknesses are allowed
As for the visual impairment, well, nobody is perfect. One look at the Bible is enough to see that God is not looking for faultless ground staff. The great women and men of the Old and New Testaments were all imperfect people with weaknesses, flaws, and inadequacies: Peter was fickle and impulsive, David had an affair, Jacob was a deceiver, Martha worried endlessly, Jonah was hesitant, Paul had Lives on the conscience (and eye problems), Sara was impatient, Elia depressed, Thomas an extremely critical doubter. All normal people I can relate to, not superheroes. And yet: God used them for small and large things. So he can do the same with me. Especially since in every weakness there is also a strength.
I don't want to gloss over anything here. Of course, it would also be easier for me if I could see familiar faces at first glance at project meetings, trade fairs or in my parish and immediately knew who I was dealing with in a personal conversation. Or when I do not encounter a certain reserve in some people to whom I signal an interest in friendship. Not always, but sometimes. All things that would probably make life easier without visual impairment. On the other hand, because of my visual impairment, I have embarked on a path in life that has brought me countless beautiful experiences that no other path could have brought me and that I therefore do not want to miss at any cost. That is also why I have every reason to answer the question I asked at the beginning about the compatibility of my faith with my disability with a resounding yes and to be grateful for a rich and fulfilled life - despite all tensions and challenges. Especially since it is by no means the case that sighted people do not have this too ...
Or as the Christian songwriter Jürgen Werth puts it so beautifully in his title Leben ohne Schatten:
“Life without shadow is life without sun. Those who have never sat in the dark hardly pay any attention to the light.
Life without tears is life without laughter. Those who have never been in despair often fail to notice their happiness.
Life without valleys is life without mountains, anyone who has never been to the bottom looks indifferently into the valley.
Life without doubt is life without faith, if you never seek and ask, your answers are stale. "
To the author
In addition to political science and sociology, Savo Ivanic also studied peace and conflict research in Marburg. He works for DVBS in the field of public relations and is a member of the DVBS project including vocational training without barriers (iBoB).
Two photos illustrate the contribution:
Photo 1, caption: The inhabitants of this planet don't have to be perfect. Photo: ColiN008 / pixabay.com
Description: The blue globe hovers over an outstretched left hand and casts its shadow. The background is completely black.
Photo 2, caption: Savo Ivanic. Photo: private
Image description: Savo Ivanic smiles at the camera. He is sitting on a desk chair and wearing a gray sweater. He is clean-shaven, his fringe of hair is cut stubble-short. Stripes of shadow fall diagonally from above onto the white wall in the background.
How good is god An interjection
From Uwe Boysen
Oh dear God, a question like that at the end of summer, when everyone has to recover from their vacation? But at least horus has taken up the subject of faith, and this question, which is truly not easy to answer, fits in well.
Of course, as a non-theologian, I am placing myself on very thin ice with which I threaten to break in gloriously. But there are some aspects (many of them I owe to Susan Neiman's book, Thinking Evil: Another History of Philosophy, 2004) that may come to mind on an agnostic.
Let's start at the beginning. Back then, the Book of Books teaches us, everything was fine. Adam and Eve lived in paradise. You didn't have to toil. Everything was doing well, and they were neither hungry nor thirsty. And then came the story of the snake or the apple. The gentlemen broke a ban, all right. But - as a lawyer may I ask - was the punishment that followed really appropriate? How serious was the crime, or should we not speak of an administrative offense? If the judgment of God had stood for review by a court of appeal, it would certainly have been annulled and the matter would have been referred back to the Creator for a new decision. But it was all worse. God punished not only Adam and Eve, but all descendants as well, so a classic case of clan liability, which here does not appear to be justified by anything, absolutely nothing. And then he also allows Cain and Abel to grope into their doom. Truly no masterpiece, sir!
If we look around further, we inevitably come across the case of Job. The fact that the tests imposed on him are based on a bet between the Almighty and the devil, that is, God plays poker, does not make the assessment of his general actions appear in a more favorable light.
Of course, there are also slightly more positive aspects to Heavenly Father. After all, in his dispute with the people of Israel on Mount Sinai, he entered into the first guaranteed mediation with Moses as mediator, in which the ten commandments jump out. But then in the New Testament he again behaves rather hard-heartedly by having his son nailed to the cross. There is little to be felt of fatherly love and a sense of family. And we should think of such a person all the time and let him guide us, because - as many of us prayed when we were children - our hearts are pure and we go to heaven as a result?
With all due respect, dear creator, I am and will remain skeptical.
To the author
Uwe Boysen was presiding judge at the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Bremen and until 2016 presiding judge of the German Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired in Studies and Work. V. (DVBS).
Photo 1, caption: Biblical stories from the perspective of a lawyer: Were the 10 commandments the result of mediation? Photo: falco / pixabay.com Description: A colorful mural shows Moses in a red cloak. He points with a stick to an open stone book, which he is holding close to his body. The text of the 10 commandments is recognizable.
Photo 2, caption: Uwe Boysen, Richter a. D. Photo: DVBS. Description: Uwe Boysen wears dark glasses. His hair is white.
School for the blind in the Central African Republic: where the need is greatest, there is hardly any help
By Rolf Stagge
The civil war between the Muslim and Christian militias hit our project hard. Almost everything in furnishings, typewriters, books or production equipment has been destroyed or stolen in the past two years.
Reconstruction began a few months ago. The UNHCR refugee agency donated chairs and school desks. We provided the funds for cupboards and school supplies.
An air freight shipment could be dispatched with nine Braille typewriters. Thus, the basic equipment for the lesson is available again and the first twenty students - blind people of all ages and genders - set off every day to experience community in need in two classrooms. People read, write, sing, pray and chatter.
All of this has been happening almost unchanged for more than thirty years in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.
A small group of private donors is responsible for the care and financing.
That was not always so. Initially, the group Huguenots help in the north Hessian church district Hofgeismar, among other initiatives, campaigned for this project. The initiator and remaining sustaining member to this day was and is Rolf Stagge, who worked as a social worker financed by the World Council of Churches in a cultural center that was home to a school for the blind and a carpet weaving mill run by the Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM). After the CBM regulations provided for the replacement of the blind local director by a sighted one, the decision was made to establish an independent school. This has now been in place for thirty-two years. The founding members, the blind pastor Nodjidoum as the leader and Rolf Stagge as the fundraiser, organizer and friend of the blind, are committed to this day. The institution has been recognized by the state for several years.
The security situation in the country makes it impossible to expect any institutional help. All the more, help is needed from committed people who guarantee that the facility will continue to exist and - if possible - even enable further development.
The previous financial means have only been enough to keep the school going, to pay the rent and a teacher's salary and to be able to offer two small meals a week. There is often a lack of funds for continuous manual activities. A lot would be possible with small donations: With 20 euros, fifteen blind people could be provided with meals for a week. The monthly salary of a teacher would already be covered with 100 euros support. And with a larger donation of 400 euros, a palm oil and soap production could even be financed at the school, which in the future would allow people to do handicrafts and offer their own products for sale.
Before the civil war, more than thirty blind people came to the meeting regularly. It will be a while before this satisfactory situation is reached again.
This project needs new comrades with drive and courage. The above protagonists are both over 70 years old and would very much like to gradually transfer responsibility to younger people. The blind of Bangui, many of whom have been coming for years, will thank them from the bottom of their hearts.
There is much to be done beyond what is described above. The project should be put on a broader footing, the currently rather poor internet presence (CAFBAC) needs to be optimized and the acquisition of financial grants intensified.
After four years, the first visiting trip will take place in autumn 2017. A former minister will organize everything on site. Meet blind friends again, get an idea of the situation, get cost estimates for the necessary construction work, come into contact with other international organizations, have long conversations with the warm-hearted and always cheerful leader, attend church services and other things will be the order of the day.
Who would like to go on the trip - and accompany the school for the blind in Bangui on its way?
Information about the work of the school for the blind in Bangui is also available on the website cafbac.org. The official name of the school for the blind is: Center d'Alphabétisation et de Formation en Braille pour les Aveugles en Centrafrique (CAFBAC).
To the author
If you want to support the Bangui School for the Blind, you can donate to the following account:
Rolf Stagge, IBAN DE52520900000165733606, purpose: Bangui
2 photos and a picture collage are part of the contribution.
Photo 1, caption: Hoping for news of peace and support - The school for the blind in Bangui suffered from the civil war. Your leadership by the blind pastor Nodjidoum is an example of the commitment of blind clergymen. Photo: CAFBAC. Description: A slim man is sitting behind a large desk. He is wearing a yellow shirt and dark glasses. He reads papers with his hands. To his right is a small portable radio with an antenna on the table.
Photo 2, caption: Alphonse Nodjidoum, pastor of the Baptist Church of Ngou-ciment, heads the school. Photo: CAFBAC. Description: Pastor Nodjidoum is a tall, slim man. He wears dark glasses and a light hat with leopard spots. His dark suit has large pockets and he is wearing a tie. He is holding a briefcase in his right hand.
Photo collage. Caption. Impressions from the school for the blind in Bangui. In the second row from the top: teacher Nanette Pake and teacher Lucien Kangue. Photo: CAFBAC. Description from left to right: (1) A boy with dark sunglasses looks seriously into the camera. (2) A group of four women, with a man in the background, are smiling. You are standing in front of a building. (3) Nanette Pake, teacher, is sitting at a desk and reading a book with her hands. (4) Lucien Kangue, teacher, at his desk with two writing boards for Braille. He wears dark glasses. (5) A woman with a tied headscarf and dark sunglasses smiles. (6) A pupil and a pupil sit at the school desk and read braille. (7) A young student writes with the help of a writing board for Braille. (8) Exterior shot of five young children standing in a row.
More than an addition of poorly seeing and poorly hearing: pupils with hearing impairments at the German Study for the Blind (blista)
For class teacher Jutta Duncker and her students from grade 8, it was very intensive and impressive experiences that they were able to gain at the beginning of the last school year. An employee of the Hören Support Center in Friedberg took a morning to introduce the blista students to the world of experience and perception of one of their classmates. During the workshop, which lasted several hours, the aim was to better understand what it feels like to be able to hear difficultly (with hearing technology) or little or not at all (without hearing technology) in addition to being visually impaired. With the help of sound simulations, which the students had to pull over their heads, it was possible to understand which indefinable noise carpet is raining down on the hearing-impaired classmates. In addition, the functionality of hearing aids and - in the case of deaf students - cochlear implants were clearly explained. “This workshop was an absolute enrichment for the cooperation within the class,” says Duncker.
These workshops are one of the first results of a new blista working group that deals with the situation of hearing-impaired pupils at the Carl Strehl School. Under the direction of Jutta Duncker, the working group consists of teachers, employees from the boarding school, the rehabilitation facility (RES), public relations and a representative of the parents' council, whose child is herself restricted. The aim of the working group is to specifically promote this group of students and - even more than before - to improve the learning and living conditions for them at the blista.
At the moment ten percent of the students at the blista have a hearing impairment in addition to their visual impairment. "The spectrum ranges from moderate hearing impairment to complete deafness under spoken language communication conditions," explains Jutta Duncker.
With Florian Ott, who has been a teacher at the Carl Strehl School for a year, the new working group has a real expert at its disposal, as he is trained in both the specialization of vision and the specialization of hearing. Ott has put together a guide with tips and information on the subject of hearing and vision impairment, which will be distributed to all teachers who have a hearing-impaired student in their class. “At the same time, we started to work on communication behavior in the classes,” explains Duncker. “Ultimately, everyone benefits from this. However, it is only possible for the visually impaired pupil to follow what is happening in the class. Confusion should be avoided. A clear and loud pronunciation, always facing the handicapped classmate, is absolutely necessary.
For those students who use a cochlear implant or a hearing aid, microphone systems are available if required. Each classmate and the respective teacher have their own microphone so that the visually impaired pupil can understand the subject teacher and his classmates well. At this point the blista differs from most other schools, also in terms of inclusion. There are always teacher microphones there, but rarely for classmates.
In addition, the room acoustics of the classrooms are to be gradually improved. Everyone benefits from this, too, the students as well as their teachers. “But that alone is not enough. Hearing visual impairment is more than just the addition of poor vision and poor hearing, ”says Duncker.
For many people with impaired hearing and vision it is important to be able to follow the acoustic information that they receive visually - if their eyesight allows it. "Now we start again to write certain aspects that structure the lesson on the blackboard."
Learning a foreign language also places high demands on the students concerned. A great difficulty is the perception and processing of foreign sound connections. In addition, the pronunciation often deviates from the typeface, so that these deviations have to be stamped according to different rules. In these cases, those affected can use a disadvantage compensation: Teaching materials are prepared in such a way that they can be perceived with less stress and less problems for the pupil with reduced mobility.
“If we listen to a radio broadcast or watch a film in class, we give it to the handicapped pupil to take home so that he can listen to it again in peace. Or we transmit verbal information in writing so that the student can ideally read what is being said. The use of special additional technology, such as radio systems and adapters, can also be very helpful in this context, "explains Jutta Duncker.
Lessons are held at blista not only in the classroom or in the specialist room. Even with the many sporting activities, such as the rowing leisure time, value is placed on the fact that all students - whether blind, visually impaired or hearing-impaired - can participate equally. “This year, thanks to the good tips and help from committed parents and the creativity of teachers, we found an excellent solution,” says Duncker, describing the following example. A student who is almost completely deaf and can only hear thanks to cochlear implants, had been to the rowing leisure at the Edersee. In the water, he was not allowed to wear the implants without further protective measures, which unfortunately make electrical hearing more difficult again. Since his vision was too little to perceive signs from the sports teacher, the sports teachers resorted to a simple but ingenious trick: so that he could receive and perceive signals from the teachers in a single rowing boat, the eighth grader tied a device around his wrist, which he wore Initiates radio signals, can transmit vibration impulses. The sports teachers were able to send him tactile signals. Vibrating once meant: keep rowing, twice: stop.
The working group would like to expand this close cooperation with the parents of the children and young people with restricted access. As part of the summer festival, there was already a first opportunity for mutual exchange. “In general, we are very strongly supported in our efforts by the experts in this field. For example, the head of the German Association for the Deaf-Blind in Hanover has already offered her support. In addition, we are now well networked in the hearing impaired scene, ”says the head of the blista working group.
As for the school, the boarding school and rehabilitation classes are also checked and considered how the framework conditions there need to be changed so that the day does not start with a stressful chaos of noise at breakfast in the shared apartment, for example; or so that the orientation training in the afternoon, in terms of acoustic overstimulation and individual directional hearing, can run as optimally as possible.
Many of the visually impaired blista students previously attended schools for the visually impaired, deaf or regular schools. “Some of our students told us that unfortunately it was seldom the case that there was holistic support. Most of the time, the focus was on an impairment and the special conditions that you need when you have poor vision and hearing are often ignored. We'd like to change that, ”says Duncker, summarizing the goal of her working group.
Contact to the working group
To the author
Thorsten Büchner works in the area of public relations at the German Institute for the Blind in Marburg.
Photo 1, caption: Blind, visually impaired and hearing-impaired children learn together at the blista. In the photo you can see a blista class with their teacher Florian Ott. Photo: Bruno Axhausen
Description: A group of eleven children is sitting on the steps of the new auditorium, Florian Ott in a dark green shirt on the far left.
Photo 2, caption: Thorsten Büchner. Photo: private.
Description: Thorsten books smiles at the viewer. He wears narrow, dark-rimmed glasses, a dark jacket and a blue shirt. He has short, curly brown hair.
Christoffel Mission for the Blind
Touch stick for the train and third eyes: Winner of the CBM federal special prizes for youth research
Heidelberg, July 3, 2017. At the wheelchair marathon in Heidelberg on Sunday, July 2, 2017, the Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) awarded the winners of the CBM federal special prizes of the competitions Jugend forscht and Schüler experimentieren.
Nele Tornow (18) and Fabian Rimmele (18) from Schleswig-Holstein took first place in the age category Jugend forscht (15 to 21 years) with their orientation aid for the visually impaired in local public transport. The second winners were Tobias Fleischer (18) and Max Fleischer (14) from Baden-Württemberg for an electric curb overcoming system for walkers. Anton Lefel (13) from Schleswig-Holstein with the third eyes was the winner in the pupils experiment category (up to 14 years of age) Second place is Luis Geissler (14) from Rhineland-Palatinate, who developed anti-stumble shoes.
Every year, the CBM Special Prize for Innovations for People with Disabilities honors creative studies and inventions that make everyday life easier for people with disabilities, promote equal opportunities or deal with the connection between illness and disability. Especially projects that make a contribution to people with disabilities in developing countries have good chances of winning. The first places in both age groups at federal level are each endowed with 300 euros, the second with 200 euros.
1st place Jugend forscht: On the right track with the cane
Nele Tornow and Fabian Rimmele want to make it easier for visually impaired people to travel by bus and train in local public transport. The solution should be inexpensive, compact and useful. They installed four microphones and a camera on a platform. They used it to record the sounds of trains entering at different points on the platform and compared the position of the wagons with the camera. Using complicated calculations based on the noise of the arriving train and its length, the young people were able to predict the position of a wagon door. This method can be integrated into a standard stick. This is provided with a small camera and a vibration signal and then guides the visually impaired to the door of the S-Bahn.
2nd place Jugend forscht: safely conquering steps with the rollator
Max and Tobias Fleischer have developed a wooden climbing wheel that is the size of a rollator wheel and has the outline of the number six. The wooden disc is mounted on a frame between the front wheels of a rollator and connected to a small motor via a bicycle chain. As soon as the motor is activated via the switch on the handlebar, the disc rotates once around its axis, lifting the front wheels to the level of the curb. Because the wheels come up at the same time and the climbing wheel acts like a support for a short time, the rollator remains stable and cannot tip over.
1st place Pupils experiment: The third eyes from a distance
Anton Lefel's grandma now sees so badly that she can no longer read phone numbers, package inserts or a list of ingredients. Because all family members are either at work or at school during the day, the 89-year-old often had to wait for help until the evening. The problem: The old lady has neither a smartphone nor internet access, so she can't just send a photo if she wants to know whether she has hand or shoe polish in front of her. Anton constructed a device about the size of a file folder on which a webcam is mounted on a tripod like a reading lamp. A single push button activates the camera and sends the resulting digital photo to a cloud via a USB storage medium. At the same time, an email will be sent to all family members indicating the location of the photo. So anyone who has time can read the photographed document, call the visually impaired person and read the text aloud.
2nd place Pupils experiment: anti-trip shoes warn of obstacles
Inspired by his grandmother, Luis Geissler wanted to build something that would help visually impaired people in everyday life and recognize obstacles for them. He designed an inexpensive navigation system that is installed in the shoes. The pupil installed small infrared sensors on the shoe cap, which function like the reversing aid on a car. The reflected waves activate the minicomputer in the heel area of the shoe sole, which starts small vibration motors. Luis removed these motors from a discarded cell phone and attached them to the shoe in such a way that they vibrate below the ankle. The shoes are activated by cables that replace the shoelaces and have to be put together for the start. The batteries in the sole can be charged via a shoe cabinet that works like an induction cooker.
Development aid for over 100 years
The Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) is one of the largest and oldest development cooperation organizations in Germany. It has been promoting people with disabilities in developing countries for over 100 years. The task of the CBM is to improve the lives of people with disabilities, to avoid disabilities and to break down social barriers. The CBM currently supports 650 projects in 63 countries. Further information at www.cbm.de.
Photo 1, signature: (from left) Fabian Rimmele (18) and Nele Tornow (18), students at the Alfred Nobel School in Geesthacht, have developed an orientation aid for visually impaired people to help them get on buses and trains more easily . Photo: CBM
Description: Fabian Rimmele and Nele Tornow are standing in front of a tree in a garden and are holding a white cane in their hands. A red box is mounted on the stick behind the handle.
Photo 2, signature: The winner of the federal award ceremony, students experiment Anton Lefel (13) from Schleswig-Holstein for his invention, the third eye. Photo: CBM
Description: Lefel is standing with his certificate in front of the CBM flag and the sponsor wall. With his left he is holding his invention.
As an introduction
From Uwe Boysen
Today's time travel shows us that the trees of the welfare state did not grow into the sky even in the early 1980s. If we had been able to achieve considerable improvements in the previous decades, it has now become apparent that those leftists who spoke early on of the "welfare state illusion" were not as wrong as one would sometimes believe. However, in 1981 no one really foresaw that the struggles for blind money would get so much worse later on.
But read for yourself what the first managing director of today's DVBS, Wolfgang Angermann, wrote in the "Marburg Contributions" back then.
Today's source: Angermann, Wolfgang: Ausklang 1981. Published in: Marburg contributions to the integration of the visually impaired, 6/1981, pp. 702-707 (only in braille).
The end of 1981
This "Year of the Disabled" was introduced with numerous melodious speeches, and to some who listened a little more carefully, what was said, explained and promised sounded too programmatic and too optimistic. The words will now be replaced by deeds towards the end of this year, which, however, are not likely to make us optimistic.
In three federal states, people are preparing to attack the benefits for the blind in the interests of general austerity measures: In Berlin, the Senate wants to increase the monthly benefits for the blind only every two years. In Rhineland-Palatinate, they are to be "frozen" at the current level, completely canceled for residents and - as far as the start of services is concerned - combined with a six-month waiting period. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the Rhineland Regional Council recently announced in a press release that it was no longer able to pay the blind allowance in the statutory amount of January 1982 to those entitled and that it would act accordingly.
There is certainly no question that the blind citizens of this state are also prepared to contribute to the necessary savings in public budgets. However, the plans described in all three federal states have one thing in common: the equal treatment of all blind people, whether they have become blind through the effects of war, accident or illness, would be abolished by the planned measures. Both § 67 of the Federal Social Welfare Act and the corresponding provisions in the state blind allowance laws are based on the provisions of § 35 of the Federal Welfare Care Act, which regulates the amount of the so-called care allowance for war blind people, as far as the amount of monthly blind help is concerned. It is precisely this coupling that the legislators in Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate want to remove again in order to be able to regulate the amount of blind allowance independently (e.g. through statutory ordinance) in the future. In our opinion, the announcement by the Rhineland Regional Council also has the purpose of exerting political pressure on the legislature of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Immediately after the plans became known, the self-help organizations for the blind presented their counter-arguments to the responsible bodies. (...)
In cooperation with the General Association of the Blind in Berlin and the German Association of the Blind, whose second chairman, Herbert Demmel, personally endeavored both in Berlin and in Rhineland-Palatinate to have the existing draft laws withdrawn, it now seems that there is at least one in Berlin in our sense a positive result has been achieved.
At the meeting of the DBV Board of Directors on November 27/28, 1981, three resolutions with the same content were passed, which were addressed to the members of the Berlin House of Representatives, the State Parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate and - as a letter from the DBV - to the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia are directed. They also make it clear once again that the planned measures would result in serious interventions in the rehabilitation system, in particular by dismantling the socially indispensable principle of finality.
It is to be hoped that the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia will also follow the example of Berlin and look for ways of saving budget funds that do not burden a certain, and still small, population group with a special sacrifice.
Dr. Michael Richter
Taking the rights of disabled people really seriously: New possibilities for implementing aspects of accessibility through a project for all people with disabilities carried out by the Rights of Disabled People GmbH
At least since the ratification of the UN Disability Rights Convention in 2009 by the Federal Republic of Germany, the inclusion of people with disabilities has been a target for our society. In contrast to integration, inclusion is shaped much more by the fact that society is called upon to improve the framework conditions for the inclusion of people with disabilities. The most important instrument for this is the creation of accessibility, primarily in publicly accessible areas. How this is to be done is basically regulated at the federal level in the Federal Disabled Equal Opportunities Act (BGG), at the state level and mostly for the municipalities in the respective Land Disabled Persons Equal Opportunities Acts (LGG) and then in detail in the specialist laws, such as the road and path laws or Building regulations of the federal states, updated. Furthermore, the regulations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (BRK) and the relevant DIN standards must be taken into account in the implementation to be carried out.
It is true that today the concerns of disabled people are taken seriously more often than at the beginning of this century, especially when it comes to aspects of accessibility, especially in public new buildings and renovations, and attempts are usually made to find experts in their own right or even professional ones Include the expertise of disabled people's associations in the planning and implementation. Nevertheless, it happens again and again that good advice is not listened to, other issues are given priority, or accessibility is simply implemented - without knowledge of the relevant regulations - which then leads to questionable or catastrophic results. In these cases, good advice has so far been expensive, because individual disabled people can hardly be expected to effectively demand the correct implementation of the barrier-free design because of the cost risk of a lawsuit, or simply because they are not directly affected, they simply have no right of action at all.
The legislators also had this aspect in mind when passing the disability equality laws. That is why the so-called class action right was provided for these cases in particularly relevant areas. If an association, in accordance with its statutes, turns to one topic in particular, here, for example, improving the opportunities for people with a disability to participate by implementing aspects of accessibility, it can use the representative action in its own name to have a court establish that in a specific case the relevant regulations on accessibility have not been taken into account or have not been taken into account correctly
The right to bring legal action according to the BGG or the LGGs appears to be the right means to sustainably enforce accessibility issues. However, it has not been used very much in recent years and has mostly been unsuccessful. According to the assessment of science and the experts of the associations entitled to take legal action, the reasons for the so far very limited effectiveness of this instrument lie in the selection of suitable cases and in the limited knowledge of the practical implementation of a representative action. The following questions arise, for example: What does such a procedure cost? How long does it take? And what does an association have to consider in advance of such a lawsuit? These are questions and problems that, by the way, prevented the effective use of this instrument for a long time in the 1980s and 1990s, even with regard to the right of group actions for consumer protection associations. These information deficits could, however, be overcome with the help of targeted advice and coaching of the associations by legal experts. Today this instrument has become a sharp weapon in the enforcement of consumer protection concerns.
This type of advice and coaching for small and medium-sized self-help associations, most of which do not have full-time legal expertise, is to be offered by this three-year project from January 1, 2017. As part of this, associations are first sensitized to the problem described above, relevant cases are to be collected, prioritized and, if necessary, brought before the Federal Arbitration Board (Section 16 BGG) and / or before the court and extensively documented publicly so that At the end of the project, hopefully the collective right of action for handicapped self-help associations will finally become an effective instrument for enforcing aspects of accessibility.
Particularly noteworthy in this project is the fact that the German Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. V. (DBSV), as the project sponsor, also offers this service to associations for people with other disabilities, and as far as possible commissions its subsidiary Rechts Behinderter Menschen gGmbH (rbm) for the practical implementation, which can thus do justice to its name by representing the interests of other groups of disabled people.
This article should first of all inform about the newly created resources in the context of the project and the resulting possibilities. Specifically, from January 1, 2017, disabled people are called upon to report cases of obvious violations of accessibility issues to the rbm, whereupon their suitability for a representative action is then checked, if necessary, contact is made with the relevant disabled self-help association and implementation is then planned.
Ultimately, however, one should warn against too great expectations, because as already shown, the few representative actions so far have only been crowned with extremely moderate success. Therefore, the first step will be to select cases that can be expected to result in a positive court judgment and to establish the instrument of representative action to enforce accessibility in the case law. These will be extreme cases, i.e. cases in which the non-observance of aspects of accessibility not only affect the accessibility or usability of public facilities, but also threaten the safety of people with a disability, e.g. incorrectly laid floor indicators that are too high when in use result in a massive risk to blind people in road traffic.
If you are or become aware of such evident and unambiguous cases, do not hesitate to contact us. We will then check whether your case is suitable to bring about the trend reversal in the collective actions according to the BGG or the respective LGG, in order to write a little "case law history" with your help.
To the author
Dr. Michael Richter is managing director of the rights of disabled people gGmbH (rbm) and former managing director of DVBS.
Portrait photo: Dr. Michael Richter. Photo: itrol / DVBS
Description: Dr. Richter has a short mustache and short-cropped dark hair. He wears a blue shirt under the black jacket.
Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency et al.
Survey on Discrimination in Germany: Joint Report to the German Bundestag Shows Risks of Discrimination in Employment Services
There are sometimes serious risks of discrimination in job placement in Germany. This emerges from the joint report to the German Bundestag, which the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency presented on Thursday in Berlin together with the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration and the Federal Government Commissioner for the Issues of People with Disabilities.
Experiences of discrimination in job placement can therefore have individual causes, such as openly discriminatory attitudes of specialist staff. Of far more fundamental importance, however, are the risks of discrimination in procedural processes. This can mean that people are not adequately supported in their job search - and in the worst case, remain permanently looking for work.
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