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Bundestag disinvites 100 wheelchair users

The Local · 15 Oct 2011, 13:31

Published: 15 Oct 2011 13:31 GMT+02:00

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Handicapped organizations have reacted with scorn to the debacle, according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Markus Kurth, disability rights spokesman for the Green party, described it as "annoying, embarrassing and stupid."

The conference, planned for December 2 and 3, was meant to give disabled people the chance to discuss the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with German politicians for the first time in history. The German Disability Council had welcomed the event as a "significant initiative."

But unfortunately for the organizers, around 300 people registered to take part, including 100 wheelchair users.

That was too many, according to the Bundestag's management, who explained that fire safety regulations and technical restrictions only allowed room for 30 wheelchairs.

This forced Kurth, along with his counterparts in the other political parties, to send out a joint cancellation notice. The letter explained that organizers had asked Berlin's fire service and the inspectors from the Berlin urban development ministry to carry out "an intensive inspection," but to no avail.

"It was not an option to cut the conference down for safety reasons," the letter said.

Barbara Vieweg, chairwoman of the German Disability Council said the cancellation was a "sign of the hopeless way authorities deal with disabled people and disabled access."

Adolf Bauer, president of the Social Association (SOVD), which represents the interests of pensioners, disabled people and people in care homes, said "organizational precautions should have been taken to prevent the debacle."

Story continues below…

The event has now been rescheduled for the end of next year, during which technical adjustments will be made. Left party spokesman and wheelchair user Ilja Seifert commented, "reality has caught up with the Bundestag in an unpleasant way."

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:15 October 15, 2011 by catjones
I told them to not let Duisburg organize the event, but they wouldn't listen.
19:52 October 15, 2011 by zeddriver
What a tough situation. You try to do the right thing and it blows up in your face.

I would hope that in the future, Planners of such events make sure that they send out invitations or fliers that state before hand how many spots are available for persons with disabilities. That would save a lot of needless embarrassment.
20:34 October 15, 2011 by Englishted

Bitter and biting satire ,good.

Why did then not just change the venue to one that could accommodate the wheelchair users?

Or is that to simple for these over-payed, under-worked guardians of democracy.
08:02 October 16, 2011 by wood artist

Likewise, my first thought was to change the venue. Surely there's some place in Berlin that could handle the situation. The second option, which certainly could be explored, would be to increase the number of "assistants" so an orderly evacuation could be managed if something did happen. That is the usual measure for how many chairs are allowed in a space...dealing with an evacuation for fire or whatever.

I have no idea how flexible the German fire codes are for such things, but I'm betting something could have been done if everyone started from the "let's find a way to make this work" viewpoint.

Sigh! I guess it does prove they need to talk in the first place.

13:54 October 16, 2011 by mobiusro
Good thing it was not a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities where lots of people with disabilities are expected to show up. Otherwise it would've been very embarrassing and a show of stupidity.
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