Making Inclusion a Success - Future vision: unlimited participation

INTERVIEW Roland Friele & Madelon Kroneman

To achieve the transition to a future in which everyone with a chronic disease or lifelong disability can participate, we need to work together with these people. ‘People with disabilities are relatively invisible in society because of the many barriers they face’, says Madelon Kroneman, a researcher at Nivel and a patient with muscular dystrophy. ‘As a result, they participate less in society.’

Roland Friele, deputy director of Nivel and Professor of Social Science Aspects of Laws and Regulations in Health Care at Tilburg University, can only agree. ‘Madelon really sees things that I don’t see when it comes to the subject.’ With not only her professional work skills but also her experiential expertise shared from her wheelchair, Kroneman ensures that we look at the realisation of mission III from different sides of the quadruple helix.

Mission III: the goal and the means

‘The mission is not only the goal but also the means’, says Friele. The only way to ensure that people with a disability can go to a pub, for example, is to make it possible. Entrepreneurs often do not stop to think about practical matters such as a wheelchair-friendly entrance to a pub or store, while this would promote the participation of people with disabilities in society. 

'Participation of people with disabilities in society really requires a change in thinking, increased awareness and action.', says Kroneman. It doesn’t have to be complicated: if you put a picture of your front door on a restaurant website, for example, then someone in a wheelchair knows whether they can enter. For many things it is simply a matter of knowing. That makes it much easier for people with a disability.

Participation of people with disabilities in society really requires a change in thinking, increased awareness and action.'
- Madelon Kroneman, researcher at Nivel and experience expert

Utilise existing talent

An important part of participating in society is for example the labour market. ‘The Netherlands needs people who can make a contribution to society’, says Friele. What we are doing now is actually excluding a large group of people with disabilities. That is also a terrible shame in terms of the wealth and the diversity in society.

‘Participation raises many issues in which you actually have focal points in the whole society’, says Kroneman. Working promotes social contacts and brings earning capacity. ‘People have a bit more financial leeway and can do a few more things.’

Participation in the labour market also sparks a lot of follow-up questions: how do we make sure people get to their jobs? Is there a toilet for wheelchair users? What can someone do after work to relax? And how can an employer offer everyone the right work? 

Public perception

How do we ensure this shift in the labour market? What plays a major role is how people with a disability or chronic illness are viewed. ‘People with disabilities do not want to be pitied; they just face more challenges’, says Kroneman.

A newsreader, ministers, or members of parliament with a disability are rare, while this can play a big role in changing perceptions. When this becomes more visible, then in the future, it will be more natural for people with a disability or chronic illness to participate in our society. This way, everyone can see that they are also of added value in society.

Read our full Update here.

Making Inclusion a Success - Future vision: unlimited participation

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