"Every generation of activists has its own issues and concerns"
"Every generation of activists has its own issues and concerns"
Media influencer, author, activist – those are just some of the hats that Raul Krauthausen wears. The man from Berlin is a sought-after and competent discussion partner, especially when talk turns to inclusion and accessibility. After all, these are the subject matters that shape his everyday life – on both a professional and personal level.
Always connected, always active - as an activist, Raul Krauthausen never really finishes working.
In this interview with REHACARE.com, he talks about his work and globally committed men and women and offers advice for future activists.
Mr. Krauthausen, what are the characteristics of an activist in your eyes?
Raul Krauthausen: There is no simple answer to your question. Among other things, I think this is also about whether you only do something for the money or whether you get involved because you believe that change is necessary. If it is the latter, you are probably more of an activist than a businessperson.
Where do you personally see your responsibilities and role as an activist?
Krauthausen: For the most part, my primary goal is to generate awareness of subject matters that are otherwise mostly shaped by people without disabilities. That’s something that really annoys me the most at the moment. That’s also why I try – with the help of others – to wave the flag and represent the perspective of those who are personally affected by certain issues.
What has been your experience as an activist over the past ten years?
Krauthausen: One positive aspect is that I have come to realize that I am definitely able to initiate minor changes if I stick to a subject. Generally, I don’t trigger a revolution but I get the feeling that I am taken more seriously than I was at the beginning.
I have actually had no negative experiences. Needless to say, I try to take haters and criticism seriously. Being an activist is hard work – and actually more work than many people might think. Plus, things don’t just fall into my lap. In fact, activists are always working.
What is your take on Germany and its inclusion activists?
Krauthausen: I think Germans in general – whether they have a disability or not- are not terribly prone to protest. They have strong faith in the social state and policy-makers, respectively. When individuals try to protest and object, they often lack allies.
What’s more, people with disabilities experience limits to mobilization. After all, it’s nearly impossible to get a hundred people in wheelchairs from all over Germany to spontaneously meet in front of the Brandenburg Gate, when every train only has two wheelchair accessible spots. Generally speaking, travel is far more difficult for people with disabilities.
Both offline and online, the protests for a better Federal Participation Law war under the motto: #nichtmeingesetz (English: not my law). Here, Krauthausen can be seen talking to Dr. Ilja Seifert during a symbolic "cage action" on Washington Square in front of Berlin's main train station.
What’s the general status of inclusion activists in Europe?
Krauthausen: Activists are everywhere and in every country. That obviously also depends on the political climate. But circumstances change. For example, Great Britain has a very active and powerful Disability Rights Movement with exciting initiatives. However, all of it is now a bit overshadowed by Brexit.
In September 2017, you and the Sozialhelden (English: Social Heroes) traveled to Canada and met some activists with disabilities. Why were you on this trip?
Krauthausen: When you discuss inclusion in Germany, you are often told that things are more advanced in other countries than they are in Germany – especially in countries like Scandinavia or Canada for instance. People are quick to say that but we thought: Let’s take a first-hand look and find out for ourselves.
We traveled to Canada at the invitation of a local organization and met with various activists. And I definitely have to admit that things are different and better and more advanced in some instances. Yet there are also areas where Germany fares better than other countries. For example, the entire public transport network is better in Berlin than it is in Toronto. Applying for disability assistance is also handled differently in Canada. There, everything is essentially managed via lawsuits. That’s actually one lesson we learned from this: voluntary commitment achieves very little; laws and regulations get more results. Inclusion is not charity.
What was your impression of the commitment of Canadian activists?
Krauthausen: Needless to say, we only got to see a glimpse of how things work there. I think they are organized and structured in a similar way. Canada does not have a nationwide network, which surprised us a little. The commitment tends to be at the state level. For example, the province of Ontario in Canada could be compared to a federal state in Germany. The province has its own accessibility laws and policies for instance. Canada is more organized at the state level but at a very high level and in a stricter format than is the case in Germany.
The Federal Participation Law led to numerous protests in 2016: On 11 May 2016, activists chained themselves up near the Basic Law panels in the Bundestag for a good Federal Participation Law. Raul Krauthausen was also put in chains there.
What should and can activists still effect at the global level?
Krauthausen: That obviously changes constantly. I believe we will always need activists. Things that activists perhaps fought for and accomplished 20 years ago have been implemented today and replaced by something else that needs to be fought for and achieved. After all, there is no checklist we can tick off in the end and then all activists are able to retire. I think every generation of activists has its own issues and concern. In the past, the focus was on removing people with disabilities from homes and institutions, while the emphasis now is on the right to personal assistance services. In the past, it was about laws against forced medication and involuntary treatment of people with disabilities, while today we fight for accessible doctors’ offices.
In the future, the subject of intersectionality will definitely become increasingly important: disability and migration, disability and single parenting, disability and homosexuality or disability and feminism. There are many common intersections and denominators.
What conditions need to be met in order for inclusion activists to do their job?
Krauthausen: The prerequisite is assistance in the volunteer position and in spare time. If that’s not the case, it can paralyze the entire disability rights movement.
Needless to say, financial resources are also important. There are often disparate conditions: large organization with barely any active representation by people with disabilities generally have far more financial options. If you compare this to interest and advocacy groups that promote self-determination, act at eye-level and are staffed accordingly, things are not nearly as attractive. We need to make sure that the commitment of people with disabilities in the right to self-determination movement also gets proper financial support. This is not about paying high salaries but rather about ensuring that the organization isn’t confronted with the task of how it will be able to pay rent each month.
What advice would you give future activists about their efforts?
Krauthausen: Network! Don’t take a side! Despite the fact that there are definitely some people who are starting to voice strange opinions. And above all: stay bold! Keep being creative! Try to be constructive and avoid the cliché that people often expect to see from people with disabilities – namely, that we are always nagging and complaining. Give constructive criticism!