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German disabled people explain everyday challenges
Many disabled people feel shut out of society because of prejudice. Photo: DPA

German disabled people explain everyday challenges

Tom Barfield · 2 Feb 2016, 12:33

Published: 02 Feb 2016 12:33 GMT+01:00

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"Since there are a lot of things that I usually avoid because able-bodied people have reacted in a very hurtful and ignorant way in the past, I decided to start #behindernisse to give people a platform," Twitter user Ash (@MissMindf0ck) told The Local via email.

By playing with language (the usual word for a disability in German is "Behinderung"), Ash hoped to attract people's attention.

"I have friends and family who often get the short end of the stick of these societal attitudes," Twitter user @HairyMonoceros, who helped Ash create the hashtag, said.

"It puts the focus on a disability meaning hindered by others more than anything else."

And in fact, many of the people posting with the hashtag weren't talking about problems they face due to obvious physical disabilities.

Having an invisible disability, such as a mental health problem or unseen physical condition often made for greater stigma, they reported - as strangers and even authoritiy figures judged them for using disabled facilities or claiming state benefits.

Here are just a few of the most common challenges people mentioned from their everyday lives using #behindernisse:

1. Friends' failure to understand

"I avoid arranging to meet people because I always got accused of being flaky when I had to cancel meeting up because of what's going on with my body."

"Now I usually just say 'if I'm doing OK enough on that day' rather than 'of course', otherwise people forget."

"I've increasingly isolated myself so that I don't have to expose myself to being stigmatized."

"As someone with a heart condition, you can't have fun or drink alcohol at a party in Germany without stupid comments."

2. Judgements from strangers

"If you don't have any body parts missing, you're not seen as disabled in Germany."

"'You wanted THAT the way it is?' pointing to my child.
'Excuse me?'
'Couldn't you see that already while you were pregnant?'"

3. Problems with the authorities

"Having to think about when I apply for medical supplies so as to have time for a legal dispute with my health insurer."

"But you don't look disabled," the state prosecutor said to my mother, "or have you forgotten your wheelchair?"

"The man in the foreigners' registration office said that my mother shouldn't keep pretending to be in pain."

"Having the authorities dictate to you how much you may earn, with whom you may live, because you need aid to be independent."

4. Knowing that others are facing the same problems

"Reading the #behindernisse hashtag and realising once again that others have to listen to exactly the same phrases."

"Disabled as an insult. Disabled equated with something bad. That's what our society is like."

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Barfield (tom.barfield@thelocal.com)

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