Private sector and disability: nahles hopes for good will

The opposition and the federal social minister are not satisfied: private companies are exempt from the new disability laws.

Disabled people protest against controversial new laws near the Bundestag on May 12 Photo: dpa

Article 3 of the Basic Law guarantees that no one may be disadvantaged because of a disability. In addition, the German government has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, according to which disabled persons have a right to inclusion, barrier-free access and a self-determined life. Two new laws attempt to do justice to this.

The law passed on Thursday Act on the Further Development of the Disability Equality Act is intended to expand the Disability Equality Act (BGG), which has been in force since May 2002. According to the BGG, the federal government previously only had to ensure accessibility in new buildings or major conversions and extensions. Now barriers in existing buildings are also to be addressed – in the public sector. Authorities must develop binding and verifiable action plans and timetables to further reduce barriers in buildings managed by the federal government.

Federal Social Affairs Minister Andrea Nahles (SPD) admitted on Thursday: "As far as the present law is concerned, I say quite openly: Yes, I am also missing the private sector in the BGG. I would have liked to have included it in the law. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this time – but then next time!" Nahles said she was counting on the new BGG also encouraging the private sector to "join in" and "follow suit."

The first draft of the new Federal Participation Act is currently still in the phase of coordination between the ministries. According to this, there is to be an allowance of 260 euros per month when counting one’s own income towards the costs of integration assistance and assistance for care, which will be added to the applicable income limits.

An allowance of 25,000 euros will apply in future to the assets of recipients of integration assistance (excluding assistance for care). However, since many of those affected also need home assistance and care services, virtually nothing will change for them – because only an asset allowance of 2,600 euros will still apply to assistance for care. Life partners and spouses are fully included in these imputations. This makes it more difficult for disabled people to enter into partnerships, criticize social associations.

The Left Party and the Greens criticized both laws. The Left Party criticized that the government lacked the courage to implement comprehensive accessibility in all areas of life. The Greens called the Equality Act a "lame duck". According to the German Disability Council (DBR), the Equality Act does not meet expectations because the private sector is not held accountable for the removal of barriers.

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