Ina K. (Germany)
I am Ina, 25 years old woman studying special education for penalized and disabled people in Germany. I was in the Czech Republic from September 2017 to February 2018 because I really wanted to make some experiences abroad. Erasmus gave me the opportunity for this.
I lived in the dorm in Hostivař where Daniela was also living. There I saw a posting on the wall with Daniela’s job offer. As I saw this, I was really happy because of several reasons:
– I really wanted to meet someone who knows how life in Prague is going on,
– I wanted to make some practical experiences beside my theoretical lectures,
– I wanted to know what the conditions for people with disabilities are in other countries,
– I wanted to support personal assistance introduced by the Independent-living movement. Because I think personal assistance at home is better for most of the people with disabilities than living in an institution. At home they can get the chance for more autonomous life and opportunity to be equal part of the society because they have an increased freedom of choice there. In stationary institution they cannot decide for themselves. For example, they have to wait until someone has time for them or they have to adapt to certain structures. As a non-disabled person living at home, I can choose when to eat and drink, when to go to the bathroom, and so on – namely, then, when I want to eat and drink or when I need to go to the toilet. In the contrast to the institutions, the people have to wait until the institutional structures permit it (and here I am only describing basic human needs!).
But it turned out that this work at Daniela’s was more than that. Being abroad, far away from my family and friends, was not always easy for me. But Daniela was always there. When I was at her place, I felt like at home. Once a week, at least, I was with her. I accompanied her to the university, made food for her and cleaned her flat. When Daniela had time, we ate or drank some tea and talked about everything under the sun. In the end, our cooperation turned to friendship which, I hope, can stand the distance.
Daniela is a very open-minded person. She respects others and values them in a very authentic and honest way. I never met someone before who combines these aspects in this enjoyable way. She is very caring about others. My English is not so good (in German we would say: it is not the yellow from the egg :D), but it was never hard to find a way to communicate with Daniela. She is very flexible with that kind of issue. I even loved to talk with her because conversations with her are funny or deep. All in all, Daniela is a wonderful person and I do not regret one minute I spent with her!!!
In Germany I do assistance for a woman with epilepsy since 2013. This experience and, of course, the time with Daniela let me think of assistance work as a very intimate encounter. Not only because you have physical contact but because of some situations you will never experience on your own (except you have disability). These situations are about discrimination against disabilities – discriminations by persons, institutions, states, etc. I am not happy about these moments but I’ve learned much about our efficiency-oriented society.
Even with a personal assistant life is difficult for a person with disability. Yes, I know. Everybody has problems and has to fight for a good life. But people with disabilities suffer more from our capitalist and neoliberal society than people without disabilities. They have to fight a lot more to gain a foothold in our society and to be able to live independently. Our society does not intend to support minorities completely.
If someone does not succeed in integrating, it is said she or he simply did not strain herself or himself enough. But people with disabilities can work and work and work so hard but they will not be able to be integrated into society – because the conditions are not right! A person can only participate in society if s/he has access to it – and the access must be created and free!
A simple, but always expressive example of this is: if there are elevators or ramps everywhere, it would be no problem for a person in a wheelchair to enter a restaurant or their own apartment alone without help. The conditions have to be right so that a person can live and participate in a self-determined way.
But the problem is that not many people empathize with disabled people and take their perspective. Also, our society would have to spend money to make life easier for these people – people who are disadvantaged and discriminated against by society. It would only be fair if they got compensation for it!
We are not responsible for our own happiness, because we live in a community – in which structures are given that determine life from the outset. In German, „disability“ (“Behinderung”) in the literal sense of the word means being hindered by someone from doing something. In my opinion, we should also understand disability exactly like that and solidarize as a social society and make a world in which everyone can be a part and can shape it as well.
Because of these experiences of discrimination, I have developed many wishes that I want to tell about:
I wish that someday disabled people are not penalized anymore, that they do not get stupid views from people and that they can choose educated assistants. I wish that someday they have absolute access to public transports and shops. I wish that they can work in normal workplaces, have sex and children. I wish that they also have the opportunity to be rich (as at the moment these people cannot save money. If they had money or possessions, the (German) state would take it away for their life-sustaining support (like assistance).). I wish that one day they get the right compensation for their penalization and discrimination now.
I think that through these experiences I learned why it is so important to support ideas like assistance work. It could be, at least, one thing you can do against the bad issues in our world.
Something in German:
Ein guter Assistent ist für mich eine Person, die den Menschen mit Behinderung als Chef anerkennt und die Dienstleistung nach den Zielen, Zwecken, Wünschen und Inhalten des Menschen mit Behinderung ausrichtet.
For me, a good assistant is a person who recognizes the disabled person as the boss and orients the service / work according to the purpose, aim, wish and content of the disabled person.
At the time of being Daniela’s personal assistant, Ina was a student of special education for penalized and disabled people at Charles University in Prague.