Germany Inclusion Days in Berlin

This year we celebrate the International Day of Disabled Persons at the Inclusion Days (Inklusionstage) in Berlin, Germany. It is an interesting dialogue conference with 600 participants from all corners of the world. The focus is to make everyone participate actively.

The conference focuses on the situation in Germany and what can be learned from experience from other countries. It is the Department of Employment and Social affairs that organize the event, which is very well organized and generous. The participants are a mix of representatives from the disability movement, policy makers and experts. Invited speakers come from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States, while the audience is mainly from northern Germany.

Basically, the UNCRPD is being discussed, from many different perspectives. In the parallel sessions, projects, experiences and role models of different kinds are presented, divided into topics such as work life, education, accessibility and much more.

Funka was invited to present our success story, going from an NGO project created by disability organizations in a small country up north to become a commercial market leader in Europe.

I have to admit that I was hesitant about the set up. Three speakers per room make a 15-minute presentation each, the topics are sprawling. After that, the audience is expected to initiate a discussion for more than an hour. The panel has not prepared in advance and it is a pure coincidence that I know the moderator from before. Anything can happen. With about 100 people in each room there is a high risk that nobody dares to raise the hand.

But I am totally mistaken! It quickly becomes a good discussion where the audience is the main actors and individuals with communication difficulties are debating with political officials as the most natural thing in the world – very rewarding. In a magical way, the moderators make sure that personal stories and complaints lead to constructive solutions. I am impressed.

Science meets the user perspective

The conference's evening activity is refreshing. The first day ends at 5 pm, after which a buffet dinner is offered. Two hours later, anyone still standing brings the delicious little dessert, or the beer, and goes back into the grand hall, now decorated with small round tables. Time for debate about easy to read!

In Germany, like in many other countries, there is a hot debate about who easy to read is for, how it should be presented and what the format really means at different levels. Germany has defined two levels, using different words for "easy " to separate them:" einfach "and" leicht ". Pictures, pictograms and illustrations are an important part of the concept, as is also the case in Finland, for example.

The issue currently in focus is the certificate used to show that a text is easy to read. On one hand, there is a symbol for texts that meets the criteria set for easy to read. One the other hand, there are several labels showing that a group of people from the target audience / audiences have "tested" and delivered feedback before publishing.

What is the best way to go: to have a standardized method that everyone follows or to let users approve the text? User involvement is very beneficial and it can also create job opportunities for individuals who often find it hard to enter the regular labor market. But, the result may be biased by personal opinions, not least because different target groups may have different needs. In the case of news services, there is simply no time to co-create texts in an iterative process.

The discussion bounces back and forth during the evening and it is exciting to see many universities, authorities and commercial actors having strong opinions about a topic that sometimes seems forgotten.

It is also liberating that the goal is the exchange of views, not that everyone must constantly achieve consensus. Way to go, Germany!

Susanna Laurin
CEO, Funka