“This type of inclusion should catch on everywhere in Europe”

``This type of inclusion should catch on everywhere in Europe``

#30yearsofInclusion – Inclusion Europe turns 30 in 2018!

To mark this year, we will be highlighting and celebrating inclusion in Europe in its various forms and practices – and the people behind it.

Every month we will present one person who has brought the Inclusion movement forward in Europe.

Our Inclusion Hero in April is Gerhard Furtner.


Gerhard Furtner is one of Lebenshilfe Austria’s “Heroes fighting against barriers in people’s minds and in everyday life”.

Thirteen people with intellectual disabilities are working for Sensenwerk Sonnleithner, a company that manufactures and sells street furniture. They are employed through Lebenshilfe Oberösterreich, part of our member Lebenshilfe Austria. Thanks to their work, weight bags for flagpoles are once again being produced in Austria. We asked managing director Gerhard Furtner about his motivation to employ people with learning disabilities – and how this has changed the company.

How did you come to hire people with intellectual disabilities?
I had previously been put in contact with the local Lebenshilfe branch through a charity, so we already knew each other. I was asked if I could imagine employing Lebenshilfe clients. Given that there were recurring problems with the quality of the weight bags being produced in China, the answer was easy. I also thought it would be a good way to support the integration of people with intellectual disabilities into society. We started two years ago!

How did the collaboration go at first?
Twenty Lebenshilfe clients came to our company and we showed them the work that needed doing. This is mainly the manufacturing of bags, but also includes some other activities, such as the packaging of accessories. Thirteen people in the group decided to join us. Lebenshilfe Austria provides a supervisor, and we also have a contact person in the manufacturing unit.
To allow our new colleagues to work as independently as possible, we made some adjustments. We worked with Lebenshilfe Austria to adapt the work to the abilities of each individual employee. The training took approximately three months.

One of the employees with intellectual disabilities at work.

Did other employees have any concerns?
Some employees feared that there would be less work left to be carried out by the regular staff, but we were able to quickly dispel these concerns. Others were somewhat sceptical about whether they would be able to work well with their new colleagues – however after a week, those doubts had disappeared.
Of course, one has to adapt to people with learning disabilities, a certain amount of empathy is necessary. But I’ve been told that the same employees who were initially a bit reluctant to deal with the Lebenshilfe clients now have very good relationships with them. And of course, that makes me very happy.

What other positive effects have you observed?
Our colleagues with learning disabilities not only work very reliably, they also very much enjoy working. You can feel that, and it’s contagious. Meanwhile, they have fully integrated here; for example, they participate in our annual barbecue afternoon in summer and at the Christmas party. One is often afraid of what one does not know. I am therefore proud that we can help break down barriers in the minds of people.

Are you planning to hire more employees via Lebenshilfe Austria?
As strong order conditions increase our workload, I can very well imagine that.

What advice do you give other entrepreneurs who are considering employing people with intellectual disabilities?
I would definitely encourage them to give it a try. Of course, one has to be careful to involve the core staff at every step and to take existing concerns seriously. But doubts are most easily dispelled when people meet each other. All I can say is that the decision has had a very positive impact for us, both when it comes to the atmosphere at work and in making us even more deeply rooted in the region. This type of inclusion should catch on everywhere in Europe!

 

Our Inclusion Heroine of March was Dana Migaliova, a mother of a son with intellectual disabilities and President of our Lithuanian member Viltis:
“Parents no longer have to hide their children”

Our Inclusion Heroine of February was Irish actress & musician Aimée Richardson:
“More roles must be written for people with intellectual disabilities!”

Our Inclusion Heroine of January was self-advocate Elisabeta Moldovan from Romania. Read more:
“I experienced a lot of abuse in institutions. I wanted to change this situation for others.”

 


Find all our anniversary news on social media by following #30yearsofInclusion on Facebook and Twitter


Flavours of European inclusion: celebrating 30 years of learning, working and achieving together

At Inclusion International’s World Congress, Inclusion Europe will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a special event.

Inclusion Europe members will present not only their country’s food, culture and customs, but also their inclusion achievements during the last 30 years at tables spread across the room.

Participants are invited to discover stories, pictures and objects illustrating how the inclusion movement has moved forward during the last three decades, while tasting delicious national specialties and making new connections.

They will learn about successful practices of European collaboration for inclusion and about partnerships national members have formed with companies, government agencies and donors.

We will end the anniversary event in style: with a toast and a little surprise.

Afterwards, participants can join the World Congress party.

Register here for the World Congress


 

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Easy-to-read version

Click on a word which is in bold to read what it means.

 

“This type of inclusion should catch on everywhere in Europe”

 

Inclusion Europe turns 30 years old in 2018.

We are celebrating this in a special way:

we are looking at what has been done in Europe
to make sure people are included.

Every month we will talk about one person
who has worked towards inclusion in Europe.

In April, it is Gerhard Furtner from Austria.

 

13 people with intellectual disabilities work for a company called Sensenwerk Sonnleithner.
They make and sell street furniture.

This is arranged through the Austrian organisation for
people with intellectual disabilities called Lebenshilfe Austria.

Lebenshilfe Austria is a member of Inclusion Europe.

Gerhard Furtner works at Sensenwerk Sonnleithner.
We asked him about his experiences employing people with intellectual disabilities.

Question 1:
How did you come to hire people with intellectual disabilities?

Someone at Lebenshilfe Austria asked
if I could imagine hiring people with intellectual disabilities.

There were problems with the quality of the work that was being done in China.
We needed to improve the quality of the work.
I thought it was a good idea to move the work from China to Austria.

I also wanted to help include people with intellectual disabilities in the community.

Question 2:
How did you start off working together?

20 people with intellectual disabilities visited Sensenwerk Sonnleithner
to see what work needed doing.

The work is mainly about making bags.

After the visit, 13 people with intellectual disabilities
decided to join the team at Sensenwerk Sonnleithner.

There is a person from Lebenshilfe Austria and
a person from Sensenwerk Sonnleithner to manage the work.

Sensenwerk Sonnleithner and Lebenshilfe Austria worked together
to make sure that the jobs fit the skills of the new people.

It took 3 months for everyone to get trained.

Question 3:
Did the other people at Sensenwerk Sonnleithner have any worries?

Some of the people that already worked at Sensenwerk Sonnleithner were
worried that there would no work left for them.
They quickly learnt that there was enough work for everyone.

Others did not know if they would be able to work well with
people with intellectual disabilities.

Of course, it was a new experience for many people.

Everyone learnt a lot to be able to be able to work together.

Some of the people who were worried about working with
people with intellectual disabilities are now very good friends with them.

Question 4:
What have been the other good results?

The people with intellectual disabiltites can be trusted to do good work.

They also enjoy their jobs.

When other people without intellectual disabiltites see this,
they enjoy their work too.

The people with intellectual disabiltites are fully included.
For example, they take part in summer and Christmas parties.

I am very proud to have helped break down barriers between people.

Question 5:
Are you planning to hire more people with intellectual disabilities?

It is going so well, I am open to hiring more people with intellectual disabilities.

Question 6:
What advice do you give other people who are think about hiring people with intellectual disabiltites?

Other people should give it a try!

It is important to listen to the people who are already working
at an organisation, if they are worried.

However, many people stop worrying about working with
people with intellectual disabiltites when they meet them.

Hiring people with intellectual disabilities has had a very good impact on everyone.

This type of inclusion should catch on everywhere in Europe!

Read about our other Inclusion Heroes,
Dana Migaliova, Aimée Richardson and Elisabeta Moldovan.

Find out about our birthday on social media by
clicking #30yearsofInclusion on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Celebrating 30 years of European inclusion

At the World Congress of Inclusion International,

Inclusion Europe will celebrate its 30th birthday with a special event.

Inclusion Europe’s members will talk about what they have done
for inclusion over the last 30 years.

They will also share their national foods and culture.

Participants will learn about how the members of Inclusion Europe
have worked together over the past 30 years.

Participants will also learn about how the members of Inclusion Europe
have worked with other companies, governments and donors.

We will end the event in a special way: with a drink and a little surprise.

Afterwards, participants can join the World Congress party.

Register here for the World Congress.

Use the hashtag #LearnInspireLead on Facebook and Twitter.

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