Germany’s disabled live in a separate world, official says

Disabled people in Germany live in a separate world, shut out by insufficient efforts to create barrier-free public spaces and fears from the rest of society, the country’s federal commissioner for the disabled said Friday.

Germany's disabled live in a separate world, official says
Photo: DPA

“Fears and uncertainty about living together come mostly from the able-bodied,” conservative politician Hubert Hüppe said, calling attention to the issue on the United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons.

“Those who don’t know how to greet a Thalidomide victim who has shorter arms, or how to speak to someone who is mentally disabled, often just avoid these situations. And therefore also the people,” he added.

The result of these societal fears is that the disabled live in a different world, pushed to the edges of society, Hüppe said, calling the situation “barriers of the mind.”

But the daily lives of the disabled are also hindered by the country’s failure to provide them equality in daily life, such as barrier free streets, buildings, schools and playgrounds for children, he said.

The commissioner’s comments came just days after a new study revealed that Germany has been slow to develop schools including children with special needs despite signing an international accord to create a more inclusive educational system.

For many children with either physical or mental disabilities the opportunity to socialise with their peers ends with kindergarten because there aren’t enough suitable places for them in schools, the Bertelsmann Foundation found.

The majority are forced to seek out separate special schools, it said.


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