InNatura is a consulting service specializing in providing career guidance for people with disabilities, preparing them for vocational training, and helping them find placements in the primary labour market.
InNatura starts from the premise that career choice is the foundation of a fulfilling career. It’s only fair to give everyone an equal chance in the labour market and we cannot allow ourselves to miss the potential and talent of people with disabilities.
In order to enable people with disabilities to access the labour market and to show them potential career paths, the InNatura agency provides pedagogical skills assessments and development training for everyone, disabled or not.
Bettina Knierim, Anja Goldberg and Simon Raida, thank you for the interview, we’re delighted to have the opportunity to introduce our readers to InNatura.
Team InNatura: Bettina Knierim, Anja Goldberg and Simon Raida.
Disability in the workplace, interview with InNatura
What is InNatura and what are you working on?
Bettina Knierim: InNatura is a service agency that views education as the best investment. Our work is just as much about lobbying as it is about working directly with people with and without disabilities. Those who recognize their strengths early on will make well-founded career choices and play an effective part in work processes. We’re helping shape a paradigm shift: moving away from social system-thinking towards a kind of thinking and acting that puts the human being as a person back in the centre.
Anja Goldberg: I joined InNatura as a trainer at the beginning of 2006. I liked the idea of helping young people with their professional orientation. What particularly interests me is developing ways of offering our fellow human beings a context in which to discover and to develop themselves.’
Simon Raida: I was among the first young person with disabilities to try the InNatura methods. We were able to put ourselves to the test, to push ourselves to the limit, and we were taken seriously. With the help of InNatura, I had the courage to tackle my dream of an independent life. For almost 2 years now I’ve been a part of the team and see it as my duty to pass on the courage to others that I myself received. You only have this one life and it’s worth trying to live your dreams, even if it’s not always easy.
How do you define the term inclusion?
Bettina Knierim: Inclusion is an attitude. A very interesting study was done once: one after another, women with black skin colour, then women with white skin colour and then finally men with white skin colour were placed before a mirror and asked to say what they saw. The answers were ‘a black woman’, ‘a woman’ and ‘a man’. Inclusion for me would be if everyone could stand before a mirror and say, regardless of their skin colour, gender or other distinctive features, that they just see a human being.
Anja Goldberg: It’s precisely our diversity that makes things colourful and that’s a good thing. I think about what Clewett Curtis said: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” For me inclusion is that I want to go far with everyone just as they are!
Simon Raida: To me, we all belong together and together we can face today’s challenges!
What about the salaries of employees with disabilities?
Simon Raida: There is a special case concerning this that I really want to share, since many people are not aware of it and I think it’s so bad. If as a person with a disability you have to rely on assistance, you have to pay back up to 40% of your salary and at no time may you save up assets of more than €2,600.00. Which, incidentally, applies not only to the individual with a disability, but also to his or her life partner. It’s such an advantage if you have a job; just because you need assistance, it doesn’t mean that you won’t do a good job. You can probably only understand what it means to have fought so hard for a job if you require assistance yourself. It’s really depressing that you are not allowed to use the money you earned just like anyone else.
Can you tell us more about the career choices of people with disabilities?
Bettina Knierim: The first few steps of making career choices are not very different. In order to meet the requirements of an individual with disabilities, we focus on their strengths and decide how they can then bring these to bear fully in professional fields, taking into account their limitations. Sometimes you can compensate for limitations just by making adjustments to the workplace or in the work processes; sometimes these limitations can even be an ‘advantage’. We make these adjustment possibilities clear for companies, thereby paving the way for them to take on valuable employees. An interesting example of recognizing the value of this was recently provided by SAP, who view individuals with autism as more suitable for certain work than those without autism.
Simon Raida: It really is the case that as a person with a disability, sometimes you just can’t see for yourself what strengths you’ve developed. You concentrate so much on wanting to compensate for your limitation that you don’t realize that you’ve become so much stronger in another area than an individual without disabilities will ever be.
Anja Goldberg: This makes me think of Discovering Hands by Dr Frank Hoffmann. He had the idea that blind women would be much more likely to feel breast cancer than OB-GYNs who are not blind. That’s basically common sense: a blind person’s fingers function as eyes. The mountaineer Andy Holzer once aptly said in an interview that he had ten eyes instead of two.
Thank you InNatura for this interview. Do you know someone with disabilities in the workplace? Tell us about your experience.