14 Dec 2022

Interview with Simone Fischer, Officer for Persons with Disabilities for the state of Baden-Württemberg on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The United Nations has observed the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities” since 1993. This is a good occasion to speak to Simone Fischer. She is the Officer for Persons with Disabilities for the state of Baden-Württemberg.

REHAB: Ms Fischer, you opened REHAB 2022 and saw for yourself the sheer variety of living aids and services for people with all kinds of support needs. What did you think of the products and services on show?

Simone Fischer: We live in a world that is not designed for everyone. It is designed according to standard measurements and norms that attempt to satisfy the majority. But this presents a barrier to many people. Official standards on accessibility do not help all of them. That is one of the reasons why REHAB is so essential in terms of raising awareness and showcasing options. It was fantastic to be part of REHAB 22 after a break of three years. The event was incredibly well organised, with 350 exhibitors from 18 countries, 40 per cent of those being manufacturers, all spread across 35,000 square metres of space. At the same time, the organisers were still dealing with the effects of the pandemic, which presented many challenges, difficult decisions and a lot of responsibility. For me personally, REHAB 2022 is an occasion that will live long in the memory. Both exhibitors and visitors alike told me how excited they were to be there. After such a long break, it was finally possible to once again enjoy face-to-face conversations, experience innovations up close, celebrate new product launches, contribute ideas and find inspiration. REHAB combines several topics and offers the perfect platform for discussing them. It creates and opens up opportunities for people to live an autonomous and independent life, and participate in the community. I’m already looking forward to the trade fair in 2023.

State Commissioner for the Disabled, Simone Fischer together with Jürgen Dusel, Federal Commissioner for the Interests of People with Disabilities at REHAB 2022
Zur Eröffnung der REHAB 2022 angereist: Landesbehindertenbeauftragte Simone Fischer zusammen mit Jürgen Dusel, Bundesbeauftragter für die Belange von Menschen mit Behinderungen, beim VIP-Messerundgang der 21. Fachmesse für Rehabilitation, Therapie, Pflege und Inklusion in Karlsruhe. (Credits: Messe Karlsruhe/Jürgen Rösner)

REHAB: The pandemic caused many people with disabilities in particular to be especially isolated. This often led to psychiatric problems. Are there plans to prevent this should there be another wave of infections?

Fischer: We have learned a lot from the last years of dealing with the pandemic and were able to gain valuable experience at many levels and in all kinds of areas. Having a secure and high-quality connection to other people is important for mental well-being. We have to keep emphasising that just because someone has a disability, it doesn’t automatically mean they are more vulnerable to the virus. Instead, we have to take a closer, more differentiated look.

REHAB: Given this context, how do you see the outlook for exhibitions and congresses going forward?

Fischer: As far as events like this are concerned, I am confident for the future. The virus is becoming endemic. Should it be necessary, we can always fall back on the best practices gained from experience and scientific expertise.

Getting to know innovations at the trade fair: Simone Fischer takes a look inside the Tesla converted by PARAVAN.
Getting to know innovations at the trade fair: Simone Fischer takes a look inside the Tesla converted by PARAVAN.

REHAB: You travel a lot throughout Baden-Württemberg and post about your activities on social media. What are your priorities for 2023?

Fischer: We need to make sure that legislation takes the interests of people with disabilities into account from an early stage. We cannot neglect our responsibility for making sure that existing laws and regulations are implemented with the needs of people with disabilities in mind. When you look at regulations for accessibility in construction and residency, digitalisation or public transport, I think there is plenty of room for improvement. In the cities and municipalities in Baden-Württemberg, we need better access to education, work and healthcare, as well as more consideration regarding living arrangements, recreation and everyday life. We have to make it easier for people with disabilities to participate in society. It is this that creates communities, visibility, acceptance and normality. This is what I want to achieve in my time in office.

The next REHAB will take place from 15 to 17 June 2023 at Messe Karlsruhe.
The next REHAB will take place from 15 to 17 June 2023 at Messe Karlsruhe.

REHAB: Why are more specific measures for inclusion so important?

Fischer: The issues of work, education and healthcare, as well as the situation of women and children with disabilities, are very close to my heart. Representing people with disabilities in social, political and economic matters in Baden-Württemberg is extremely important. It makes us visible and calls on society to consider the rights of people with disabilities and take them into account from the very beginning. This is what I am committed to, whether it be in meetings, specific measures and projects, my work with the public and in my statements on laws and projects at state level. If we make inclusivity the guiding principle for our society, we will succeed in creating good and just living conditions for everyone. We want to create a society that is accessible in every regard.

Thank you for this discussion, Ms Fischer!

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