At thyssenkrupp, diversity in the workplace is not just an empty phrase. At thyssenkrupp, the inclusion of people with disabilities is an aspect of high importance. After all, they often encounter barriers and obstacles in everyday situations that make their (working) lives more challenging. The most important role in supporting people with disabilities at thyssenkrupp plays the Representative for Severely Disabled Employees (German: Schwerbehindertenvertretung (SBV)), which provides advice and support in all matters relating to the workplace. It supports people with disabilities in the company, integrates them and advocates for their needs. Its tasks include checking that applicable laws, regulations, collective agreements and any company agreements are complied with in the interests of the employees. The representative body for severely disabled employees also applies for measures for severely disabled employees, accepts suggestions and complaints and mediates between those affected and the employer about these. In addition, the SBV is also the first point of contact and confidant for the severely disabled, listens to them and also takes initiatives on its own.

This was for exmple the case with Stefan Laudwein and Manfred Stüber: Both are plant operators at thyssenkrupp Bilstein in Mandern, Germany, and deaf. As a result, the two employees were unable to hardly understand anything or nothing at all, especially at works meetings or SBV meetings. On the initiative of the SBV and the works committee, a sign language interpreter was hired who now translates the content for the two deaf employees. This enables them to participate in important meetings and play an active role. Stefan Laudwein and Manfred Stüber are very happy about the inclusion measure: "This way we finally get to know what's going on in the company.

For Angelika Gasiorowski, every walk is extremely exhausting. The plant operator has a walking disability due to a musculoskeletal disorder, which only allows her to move at a very slow pace through the shock absorber plant in Mandern. In cooperation with the Integration Office, the Representative for Severely Disabled Employees modified her workplace in Mandern so that Angelika Gasiorowski can continue her work with less effort. In addition, she is picked up by a cab every morning, which is allowed to take her directly to her workplace with a special permit from the plant. SBV has also purchased a rollator for the rest of her trips around the plant. Angelika Gasiorowski says about the measures taken by the SBV: "After the workplace has been converted, it is possible for me to work again."

Christoph Aatz is a method planner at thyssenkrupp Automotive Body Solutions in Lockweiler, Germany, and lives with a neurodegenerative illness that is associated with deficits in concentration and comprehension, as well as fatigue from midday/afternoon onwards. Christoph Aatz therefore only takes over smaller projects and assists in larger projects. The SBV learned about the possibility of using an Employment Security Subsidy (German: Beschäftigungssicherungszuschuss (BSZ)) through its cooperation with the Integration Office. In a joint meeting with the Integration Office and the Integration Specialist Service on site, an assessment was made whether Christoph Aatz's work situation could be improved with other measures. Since neither technical nor organizational measures were found helpful, the integration office approved the application for BSZ. Thanks to the SBV, the method planner can now take breaks when he needs them without having to fear loss of pay. These breaks are paid for by the integration office via the Employment Security Subsidy, so there is no disadvantage for the company either. Christoph Aatz: "The is very helpful to my day-to-day work and also has a positive effect on my private environment."

But it is not only employees who have completed their training who can count on the support of the Representative for Severely Disabled Employees : Dennis Leid has a hearing impairment that makes it difficult for him to understand people when they speak too quickly or quietly. However, bearing a clear pronunciation, a good body language and gestures that support speech, communication with him works quite well. In September 2022, he became the first apprentice with a severe disability to start his training at thyssenkrupp Automotive Body Solutions in Lockweiler. The SBV advised the trainer in a confidential meeting about the possibility of hiring Dennis Leid and what needs to be taken into account when working with hearing-impaired people. As a result, Dennis Leid can now enjoy qualified training at thyssenkrupp without any restrictions. Dennis Leid feels very well integrated at the car body plant in Lockweiler, stating: "I think I'm treated the same as all the other employees. Since it's very often quite noisy in the workshop, people usually don’t understand each other very well anyway and therefore speak quite loudly, which is why I have very little difficulty understanding them, but if I do, I simply ask them whether they can repeat what they have just said".

Heimo Linnemann started at thyssenkrupp at the steering plant in Schönebeck, Germany,14 years ago without any physical limitations. When, after 10 years on the job, a spinal cord disease suddenly made him dependent on the use of a wheelchair, elevators and doors suddenly presented a whole new set of challenges for him. Thanks to the support of the SBV and the works committee, his workplace was converted to be wheelchair-friendly for him: From a dedicated carport for his handicapped-accessible vehicle, to ramps and automatic-opening doors to barrier-free toilets – many changes have been done for Heimo Linnemann's inclusion. It is also through these experiences that Heimo Linnemann himself became passionately involved in SBV. For him, integration, whether of the severely disabled, older employees or people with different cultural backgrounds, helps to retain knowledge in the company and compile new know-how. Even after entering his well-earned retirement, Heimo Lindemann remains part of thyssenkrupp: He continues to be deployed as a senior expert for individual projects and can thus pass on his knowledge to the next generation.

Additionally to the aforementioned aspects of support, even company affiliation does not constitute a hurdle for thyssenkrupp and the Representative for Severely Disabled Employees: Sebastian Olbinski was working for a thyssenkrupp Dynamic Components partner company in logistics at the Ilsenburg plant when he suffered a life-threatening head injury while getting into a forklift. He fought his way back to life after hospitalization and rehab. But after his injury, Sebastian Olbinski no longer had any career prospects with his previous employer. As a result, thyssenkrupp hired Sebastian Olbinski on a permanent basis at the powertrain components plant in Ilsenburg, where he then proceeded to complete his vocational rehabilitation. Thanks to a great team and the support of SBV, Sebastian Olbinski is now able to participate in working life again in a self-determined way. His workplace has been custom made for him and a new break management system tailored to his individual needs has been established. Sebastian Olbinski is perceived and valued as a full team member by his colleagues.

These examples show how small measures can make every day work easier for handicapped people at thyssenkrupp and thus support inclusion and diversity. The Severely Handicapped Employees Representative supports employers and employees alike in finding the right solution for every situation. Because as we all know, together you can do anything. In this context, external support measures and funds can be used whenever possible. Former German President Richard von Weizäcker once said, "Not being disabled is truly not a merit, but a gift that can be taken from any of us at any time." In the scenario of becoming handicapped, you can consider yourself lucky to have a committed SBV at your side.

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