Since 1969 there has been an annual "White Cane Safety Day" on 15 October - a day of action for blind and visually handicapped people - just like Peter Scheurich. The IT expert from Daimler has made "digital accessibility" his mission. A conversation about inclusion, goalball and digital hurdles.
Mr. Scheurich, because of your visual impairment, you can achieve a visual capacity of around 20 percent with glasses. Give us an insight into your everyday life: How do you get to work in the morning?
I mainly use public transportation. Because: I don't have a driver's license and I'm not allowed to take one. Stuttgart has a relatively good public transport network, so I live a largely self-determined life. It becomes problematic when there are no or only limited possibilities to move around in a self-determined way. Otherwise I live a relatively "normal" life. With all the great and challenging situations that life offers.
Do you have the feeling that you are perceived differently as a person with a disability?
I personally cannot confirm this. Most people do not realize that I have a handicap. Basically there is very little that is "different" with me. But I know many people who are actually perceived differently. Partly pitiful, partly as not fully-fledged - that always gets me upset. Compassion is not a help, but has the opposite effect. You should always treat people the way you want to be treated.
In your free time you play goalball, a team sport for visually impaired and blind people. What do you take with you from your hobby to your job and the other way round?
First and most importantly, sport itself is good for me - it's a great way to work out. You also get to know very different people, each with their own challenges. That helps to understand what barriers there are. Even in other countries that you've never thought of yourself. And to work together on solutions. This flows into the work of our Daimler "Digital Accessibility" working group.
A good point: What exactly does digital accessibility mean?
Digital accessibility means that everyone - regardless of their handicap - has the opportunity to use digital media. And "use" means: Perceive, understand, operate and interact. How should a blind person read a text? How should a deaf person perceive what is being said in a video? How should a person with a motor impairment navigate through the Internet? In the working group we look at different handicaps. Our task is to identify challenges in our Daimler media and applications and to examine how we can contribute to a solution. It is a matter close to my heart to help other colleagues within the scope of my possibilities and to support them in their daily work. After all, for many people with a disability, the use of digital services and applications is a real hurdle - even in the workplace. A good test: You can switch off your monitor and then try to operate the computer.
What options are there for making the digital workplace barrier-free?
Basically, there are two types of tools: already integrated functions such as the zoom function, speech output, key combinations - and additional tools, such as so-called screen readers or zooming software. In the case of videos, for example, it is sufficient to simply add subtitles.
Digital applications are only truly barrier-free when they take four principles into account: Perceptibility, operability, comprehensibility and robustness. What does that mean exactly?
Many people have a red-green weakness. Here, high contrasts and the right choice of color are important so that they can "perceive" applications. The principle of usability is reflected in the usability of mouse and keyboard. Especially for people with motoric disabilities, a program or a website should be operable using both navigation tools. An application is "robust" when it is platform independent and can be used by everyone in the same way. Comprehensibility is quite simply a matter of a simple, easily understandable text. Web pages or documents that are simple and have a clear structure are better for all users.
Can people without handicaps also benefit from this accessibility?
Absolutely! Many aspects of accessibility - and I don't just mean the digital world - help everyone. A very simple example: lowered curbs help wheelchair users, but they are also something great for parents with strollers, cyclists and pedestrians. It's the same in the digital world. A clearly structured digital document is almost indispensable for the use of a screen reader, but it also enables, for example, the automatic generation of a table of contents. An easily readable document without nested sentences is easy to understand for a person with a cognitive disability, but for other users it is a time saver. A well-structured website not only benefits the speech output, but also makes it easier to keep an overview while browsing.
How do inclusion and digital accessibility contribute to sustainability?
For me, inclusion - and accessibility is one of them - is an essential component of sustainability. At Daimler we are convinced that "Diversity makes us strong" - and that is also true for inclusion. If you don't judge people by their individual possibilities and impossibilities, but by their abilities and skills, then it helps us as a company.
Barrier-free working will be a priority in the future...
"... just as important as today! Participation is a human right."
A handicap should be considered in the job search...
"...only limited. People should be judged by their strengths and not by their natural limitations.”
For me, true inclusion means...
"...above all, break down barriers in the mind and the fear of the supposedly unknown."