Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles
Download 'Government Reports on the UN Standard Rules' as a PDF file (440 KB)
© Dimitris Michailakis 1997
Transmitted by Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York (28 March 1996)
Compare with the following Country Report(s): DPI, ILSMH, WFD
The officially recognized disability policy in Germany is expressed in law and in policy adopted by political parties. The emphasis - in descending scale - is on: prevention, individual rehabilitation, accessibility measures, individual support and anti-discrimination law.
The Government has supported the translation of the Standard Rules into German, as also their publication and distribution among the representative organizations.
The rights of disabled people are protected by a combination of special and general legislation. The judicial mechanism available includes due process (legal remedy through courts). Non-judicial mechanisms include: an Ombudsman, a Governmental body (administrative) and severely disabled persons' representatives (commissioners at different levels for matters relating to persons with disabilities).
The general legislation applies to persons with different disabilities with respect to: education, employment, the right to marriage, the right to parenthood/family, political rights, access to court-of-law, right to privacy, property rights. However, in an explanatory note, the Government adds that in the case of persons with mental disabilities the right to property sometimes applies in a restricted form or is subject to the opinion of the care person. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: health and medical care, training, rehabilitation and counselling, financial security, assistance towards employment, independent living, participation in decisions affecting them. The Government adds that the benefit to participate in decisions to a restricted extent applies in case of persons with mental disabilities.
Since the adoption of the Standard Rules a law has been enacted acknowledging the prohibition of discrimination as a fundamental right.
There are laws and regulations requiring that public places, the outdoor environment, land, sea, air transportation and housing are made accessible. Accessibility in the build environment is observed by local Governments and the constructor. The following measures have been promoted to facilitate accessibility in the build environment: installing or widening lifts and installing accessible toilets, improving accessibility in housing, providing financial support for the costs of adapting private buildings. The Government explains the difficulty in answering this question, Germany not distinguishing between: 1) statutory provisions not being the responsibility of the Government, but of the respective legislator, 2) statutory provisions being the responsibility of the Government, e.g. for its own buildings etc., and 3) financial support for corresponding measures taken by third parties. Special transport includes free ride in public short-distance transport and is available for medical treatment, education, work and recreational purpose. When planning to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are: economic/budgetary factors when adjusting existing buildings or premises, lack of knowledge, research and information, lack of user participation, lack of co-operation from other organizations/institutions. There is a disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers.
Regarding the status of sign language for deaf people the Government states the following: There is no need for an official recognition of sign language. An existing language does not need to be introduced or recognized. For the communication of deaf people or people with hearing impairments the utilization of sign language or signs to help lip-reading (signs accompanying sound language) is increasingly accepted, both in the scientific and in the practice-oriented public discussion. The Federal Government, also, supports the justified interest of deaf people and their representatives in a wider dissemination of communication forms, based on sign language. However, the situation is aggravated by the fact till now there is no uniform sign language mastered by all deaf people. To overcome this problem the Federal Government sponsors research projects aimed at developing a uniform sign language and setting up a uniform training course for sign language interpreters. Yet this does not mean a one-sided orientation towards sign-language communication, since for the integration of deaf people, which must be born in mind, it is important to communicate in sound and sign language - as the situation requires. The more demanding, more flexible and professional jobs of the future involving a higher degree of co-operation and interaction do require improved communication with those who are able to hear and consequently a higher competence of the people with hearing impairments in their use of sound language and written language. There are Government measures encouraging media to make their information services available for persons with disabilities. Measures promoted to make other forms of public information services available to disabled people are various research projects sponsored by the Federal Government and the Governments of the Federal states for improving the communication situation of persons with disabilities. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and other persons: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, subtitling television programmes for blind people and financing the provision of interpreters, in particular in working life.
Organizations of persons with disabilities
The Government states that there is no national umbrella organization. A co-operation is established between the organizations of persons with disabilities. Legal provisions exists mandating the representatives of disabled persons to participate in policy-making and to work with Governmental institutions. When laws/regulations are being prepared the views of the organizations of persons with disabilities are often taken into account but they are always asked to submit their views. Their views are being considered both at national, regional and local level. The Government provides project support to existing or new organizations of disabled persons. Persons with disabilities to some extent participate in Government, legislature, judiciary, political parties and to a great extent in NGOs. The organizations of persons with disabilities have the role to: advocate rights and improved services, mobilize persons with disabilities, identify needs and priorities, participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and measures, contribute to public awareness and provide services.
Co-ordination of work
There is a national co-ordinating committee. The Advisory Council for the Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities advises the responsible Ministry, i.e. the Federal Ministry of labour and Social Affairs. The committee includes representatives of the Ministries of Health and Social Affairs, of Employment, as well as of organizations of disabled people, of other NGOs, and from the private sector. The committee is expected to participate in policy development but is not expected to perform other tasks. The establishment of a co-ordinating committee has had the following effects: improved co-ordination of measures/programmes, improved legislation, improved integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field, more effective use of resources, and improved promotion of public awareness.
The adoption of the Standard Rules has not led to a rethinking of the approach to disability policy.