Interview with Thomas Kraus, creator of conferences for people with special needs

Last week, the 6th edition of the ‘In der Begegnung’- conference took place in the Bozar, Brussels.

Interview with Thomas Kraus, creator of conferences for people with special needs
etrLast week, the 6th edition of the ‘In der Begegnung’- conference took place in the Bozar, Brussels.

The conference is meant for people with special needs,
and it aims for more inclusion.
Brussels is a big city and the capital of Belgium

Inclusion Europe also attended this conference,
and spoke with the organizer, called Thomas Kraus

Thomas said he has been organizing conferences like this since 1998.
Times were different back then,
because people didn’t believe such a big event could be realized,
for people with special needs.
However, they managed to organize it anyways,
and gave a good example for future events for people with disabilities.

The theme this year was about creating social art.
This means, that through making things and sharing ideas,
you can create better relationships
and you can express yourself,
despite obstacles such as people not speaking the same language.

Thomas Kraus also said that 17 different countries
were represented during the event.
He found this very important,
because in this way people can share ideas and stories
about how they live,
and find out how different life can be in other parts of the world.

 

Last week, the 6th edition of the ‘In der Begegnung’- conference took place in the Bozar, Brussels. The conference is meant for people with special needs and strives for more inclusion and participation in society.
Inclusion Europe was also present and had an interview with the organizer of the event, Thomas Kraus. He spoke to us about the opportunities, results and continuous challenges concerning projects such as these.

The first edition of In der Begegnung was launched in Berlin back in 1998, during a time when most people didn’t think it possible to establish such large-scale events for people with specials needs:

Kraus:“When we started in 1990’s, the circumstances were much more difficult. We needed to find a suitable location to host so many people with special needs, and those renting out possible locations were often afraid for their property to get damaged. Also, caretakers were very wary about travelling so far to such a big city, something they weren’t used to. Eventually, the event did take off and things started to change. Additionally, I believe we have come a long way by organizing these events all over the world including less obvious places such as Russia, Brazil and Georgia. Step by step, we continue to remove barriers in the minds of people and stimulate others to do so as well.”

For every year of the event, a different theme is addressed. The main theme 2015 was ‘Creating Social Art’, focusing on the way social interaction and meeting people can lead to the creation of art, the birth of new ideas and making yourself be heard.
Kraus explains that it is all about improving the quality of relationships between people, overcoming barriers such as a difference in abilities, differences in language, mindset and cultural differences.

Kraus: “Art could be a way of bringing people closer together despite all of these obstacles. It is about getting people with special needs out of hiding, to give them a platform. We strive for a world within which the term ‘inclusion’ no longer exists, because without exclusion, there is no need for inclusion.”
Within this respect, Kraus also mentions an opening ceremony during a similar conference in Brazil, where chance passers, attracted by the ambiance and atmosphere, started to participate as well:
This lead to a situation of inverse inclusion and it was great to experience”, he describes, “The so –called disabled started to include the so-called ‘normals’ within their own event.”

Furthermore, 17 nationalities were represented during the ‘Creating Social Art’-conference at the Bozar, with this international character being of a high importance.
Kraus: “For the participants, it is very enriching and instructive to learn about the situation of people with disabilities in countries and cultures other then their own. They learn from each other and take new ideas with them back home.
In this way, the basis is created for a gradual global improvement of the rights of people with special needs,” he explains, “and this is exactly the general aim in organizing these events: to create a concept that leads to a change of mindset and that inspires individuals, ngo’s and governments to engage in similar activities. Each conference I have been involved with has had a sustainable impact that remains and eventually leads to more likeminded initiatives, gradually improving participation of people with special needs.”

For more information about Creating Social Art, click here.

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