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Impaired mobility

Experience report by Kathrin Lemler (employee of the University of Cologne)

My name is Kathrin Lemler. Since my birth I have had severe cerebral palsy, therefore I sit in a wheelchair and communicate via an eye-controlled speech computer. Strangers describe me with the words "severely handicapped" or "considerably restricted in all areas of life". Friends and colleagues describe me as a lively chatterbox or an ambitious workaholic. I describe myself as a rehabilitation scientist, research associate at the University of Cologne, consultant for AAC, head of seven assistants and, by the way, as a woman who only speaks with her eyes.

Currently, I am the first female researcher in Germany to work in the field of AAC. I contribute the perspective of personal experience. I hope that the idea of empowerment will be taken into account more in German AAC research.

expand: Bewegungsbeeinträchtigung

Dieses Bild ist urheberrechtlich geschützt.

In order for me to be able to manage my work as a research assistant well, my special form of communication must be taken into account. First of all, I need a competent work assistant who can interpret my body's own signals as well as master my technical communication aids. Nevertheless, communication with me takes considerably more time. This has a particular effect on team situations. Colleagues can support me by giving me time to communicate. So you need patience! But in such situations I also help to increase my speed of communication. I always prepare team meetings meticulously and type my speeches into my speech computer in advance.

At the beginning of my studies I first had to adapt to the structural conditions of the University of Cologne. Although most of the university is barrier-free and therefore easily accessible for wheelchair users*, there are some unsuitable buildings and individual seminar rooms. For such courses individual solutions were found for me, e.g. a lecturer arranged a change of room. As part of my work as a research assistant, I now make sure that the seminar rooms are barrier-free myself.

I like working at the University of Cologne because I have found my niche there. I can do something meaningful, I am challenged and appreciated. I experience inclusion there!

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In numbers...
4% of the students surveyed in the best2 survey in Germany (n = 20,897) state that impaired mobility has the greatest impact on their studies. The majority are diseases of the supporting apparatus, the back or the spine (41%) or chronic pain (25%). In addition, students with movement impairments often state that they are restricted in their daily study routine due to paralysis (15%) or a disease or dysfunction of the central nervous system (8%) compared to the other forms of impairment. The special evaluation of the best2 study for the University of Cologne speaks of 2.5% of the respondents (n = 952 for the UzK) for whom movement impairment has the greatest impact on their studies (n = 952 only UzK). The data analysis for NRW shows 4.7% of a total of 5,436 respondents.