Meet Horst Frehe, (Germany)

Horst Frehe (Germany)

Horst Frehe (Germany)

Biographical Notes

Horst Frehe is a national
economist and judge at the Social Court of Bremen, Member of the State
Parliament in Bremen for the GreenParty, one of the founders of the
“cripple movement” in 1977, member of the independent living
movement of Germany, and is active in several disability groups, for
example “Forum of disabled lawyers.”

 

The Development the IL-Movement in Germany
by Horst Frehe

Dear Friends,

The
roots of the German Disability Rights Movement are to be found in the
sixties. Then, young people with disabilities felt patronized by the
impairment-related parents-organizations. So they founded new
organizations, the so-called “Clubs of Disabled and their Friends”
where disabled and non-disabled young people met basically for leisure
activities. In the early seventies followed some groups of disabled
people who had met at adult education-schools; they fought against
architectural barriers. In 1978 Franz Christoph and myself founded the
“Cripple Movement” to discuss the relationship between the disabled and
non-disabled community. The main discussion was: “How to overcome the
domination of the non-disabled leaders in the disability-movement and
in society?” The best way to develop a “Cripples’ Consciousness”
appeared not to be partnership, but opposition to the non-disabled
oppressors. In a concrete perspective we fought for personal
assistance, accessible public transport and accessible apartments.

An
important change came in February 1980 as a result of a court decision
that made history as the “Frankfurt Judgment”. In this highly debated
decision, a vacationer was granted a reduction in travel expenses
because she had to bear the sight of severely disabled persons on her
holidays. Immediately numerous protests arose and a nation-wide
demonstration with 5000 demonstrators from all over West Germany took
place, a lot of them disabled. A gathering like this had not been seen
in Germany before. As a result of this demonstration we decided to
build a coalition of the different disability groups to fight against
the UN International Year of the Disabled in 1981. Being well aware
that disability officials would only use it as a platform to sing their
own praises without actually making any changes, we decided to use the
UN year for our own pur-poses. As a group of activists we chained
ourselves to the stage at the opening ceremony, thus preventing the
Federal President from delivering his speech. Our slogan was “No
speeches, no segregation, no violations of human rights”.

With
the end of the UN year the movement developed in mainly two
subdivisions. One was basically concerned with establishing
infrastructure for disabled people, mainly building assistance
organisations; the other was focused on their political representation.
The Bremen Cripples’ Group very early developed a system of “peer
counselling” even though the term was yet unknown in Germany. But it
was only after a conference in 1982, where British and US-American
concepts on Independent Living were intro-duced at a conference in
Munich, that the ideas of independent living and peer counselling
gathered momentum.

In cooperation with the Green Party in 1986 a
group of disabled activists visited some US-Independent Living-Centres
in Boston, New York, St. Louis and Berkeley (Cal) to understand how the
US-IL-movement was organizing advocacy, peer counselling und political
lobbying in the communities. On this occasion I got to know Judy
Heu-mann and Marilyn Golden in California. We were very impressed by
the political success of the success of their political organizations.
Compared to Germany, the US-society had a very different approach to
and philosophy of understanding disability. Whereas the medical or
rehabilitation model of ‘disability’ was predominant in Germany, in the
US the ‘social’ and the ‘civil rights’ model was much more accepted in
the society.

So some activists’ groups in several German towns
decided to start with Independent Living Centers in Germany. From the
very beginning of the so called “Self-Determination-Movement”, it was
intended to combine the individual and collective perspective of
organizing our lives independently and outside of institutions with a
human rights perspective. Non-segregation, self-determination and being
the expert of one’s own life were the central issues of the German
Disability Rights Movement. Today, there are more than 20 such centres
throughout Germany, meanwhile united in an umbrella organization
founded in 1990, which is our national advocacy organisation.

After
visiting STIL in Stockholm and learning from Sweden, we built the first
Cooperative for Personal Assistance in Bremen in 1990. Our concept is a
little bit different from STIL. I would describe STIL as a ‘Producer
Cooperative’, that means, that the members are the employers of the
assistants and responsible for their hiring and firing as well as for
the budget. In Bremen we chose a ‘Consumer Co-operative’ model, were
the cooperative is the employer, but the member chooses his or her
assistant in an assessment procedure. We have also the direct payment
model and cooperatives of employers like the “Verband behinderter
Arbeitgeber (VbA)” in Munich. But in Bremen, Hamburg and in Vienna
(Austria) we prefer a model which includes more people who are afraid
of taking the burden of being an employer themselves.

Besides
counselling and assistance, mobility and a barrier-free environment
were important issues as well. To influence the national and European
policy, some of us joined the Green Party to introduce disability
rights into laws and the constitution. At a Conference with the
European Greens in Strasbourg we formed the “European Network of
Independent Living” (ENIL) and we elected Adolf as chairman.

Also
as a result of the 1986 visit to the USA, we started lobbying for a
German Anti-Discrimination-Act similar to the US 505 Rehabilitation
Act. After the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in
1990 we organized a conference in Germany with our American friends to
understand how to establish disability-rights legislation in Germany
too. With a small group of political activists we produced some legal
proposals for the German Bundestag – our Federal Parliament. The
process of the Re-unification of the two parts of Germany after 1989
and the subsequent amendment of the German Constitution gave us the
opportunity in 1994 to achieve the insertion of the sentence: “No
person shall be disfavoured because of disability.” This was the
door-opener for a legislation intended to establish the obligations of
equal rights, barrier-free-environment and non-discrimination on the
federal level. After we got these ideas fixed as political proposals in
the coalition-treaty of the Social-Democrat- and Green-Coalition in
1998, nothing really happened because of massive preconceptions in the
Federal Law Department.

So we formed a lobby group of lawyers
and judges so called “Forum of Disabled Lawyers”. With this Forum we
produced a proposal of an “Anti-Discrimination-Act for People with
Disabilities”. This proposal was the nucleus of the following
legislation procedure in the Bundestag. Two of us were involved in
formulating the draft law. In May 2002 the “Federal Act on the
Equalization of Disabled Persons” came into force. This Act regulates
the competences of the federal state in terms of accessibility of
federal buildings, public transport and communication with federal
authorities which meant that further legislation would be needed on the
states’ (Laender) level – all of them now have respective laws – as
well as a civil anti-discrimination law which came into force in 2006 –
after a long and tedious debate, because certain political powers
opposed the inclusion of disabled people. This legislation had to be
passed because of the European Anti-Discrimination Directives following
Article 13 of the EC-Treaty.

In Germany the competence for
legislation in nearly all aspects of barrier-free-environment,
preschools, schooling and universities is situated on the state level
(Bundeslaender). So we try to influence legislation on building codes,
public transportation and mainstreaming education as well as on
disability rights for patients in psychiatric institutions in the
different states. That is why we have now two members of the
Disability-Movement in state parliaments from the Green Party (Andreas
Jürgens and me), two from the Left Party and one Left Party member in
the German Bundestag. Political lobbying should be a challenge which is
as important of the Independent Liv-ing Movement as building a
Cooperative for Personal Assistance.

Besides legal equalisation,
disabled people’s right to life was a major issue for the German
Disability Rights Movement from the very beginning. The discussion of
eugenics – a legacy from the Third Reich – and, later on, bioethics
were central to the movement. After the invitation of the Australian
bioethicist Peter Singer by Germany’s biggest organization for
cognitively disabled people in 1989 an im-portant part of the
Disability Movement organized protest campaigns on that subject and is
involved in political lobbying and discussions in society ever since.
Likewise the fight against assisted suicide and against the
legalization of euthanasia is an important part of the German
Disability Rights Movement. An alliance consisting of the
Disability-Rights- and the Anti Eugenic Movement was able to develop
enough political pressure to prevent the German government from signing
the “European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine”. Instead of
providing protection against biomedical intervention, the document
followed the logic of bioethics, thus rendering disabled or otherwise
incapacitated persons as “humans of lesser value” who can be used for
research or as transplant donors. Another bioethical issue was and
still is very important for the German Disability Movement: prenatal
testing and selective abortion.

Disabled women organized
themselves very early in the eighties in the “Cripples Woman Movement”
as a separate organization with a different agenda than the male
dominated “Cripple Groups”. They got involved in local and na-tional
women’s issues. In the context of the emerging feminist criticism on
the (then) new genetic and reproductive technologies, they confronted
the non-disabled critics with the connection between eugenics, genetic
counselling, and selective abortion, thus starting the discourse on the
question how political private decisions in the reproductive sector
were (and still are). Another major merit of the disabled women’s
movement is having brought the issue of the sexual abuse of disabled
girls and women to public attention and having successfully demanded
meas-ures for prevention as well as for a more severe punish-ment of
perpetrators. In 1996 the national disabled women’s network was founded.

The
German Disability Rights Movement, which consists mainly of the same
persons as the Independent Living Movement, in Germany called
“Self-Determination Movement”, observe many aspects of saving the Human
Rights und Equal Opportunities for people with disabilities. The
challenges need a wide spread of activities for the different subjects.
There is space enough for all and we could do with a few more. “Yes we
can!”

Source: Independent Living Institute Sweden.

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