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Together with four other employees, Perdita Müller, Bertelsmann Group Representative for Employees with Disabilities went to Rio de Janeiro, to report from the Paralympics for RTL, N-TV and the Bertelsmann website "Handicap TV," primarily on the participating athletes. Together with the Head of the Bertelsmann Corporate Center in Brazil, Marc Puškarić, she also welcomed around 350 guests to the "Bertelsmann Evening" during the Paralympic Games at the Deutsches Haus in Rio. In an interview, Perdita Müller reiterates the fundamental importance of inclusion of people with disabilities for companies, and why the Paralympics are so important in this connection – including for employees at Bertelsmann.
Perdita Müller: Bertelsmann signed a Group Inclusion Agreement in March 2015, establishing it as a pioneer among German companies. This replaced the Group integration agreement adopted in 2012, which already went well beyond the statutory requirements. The inclusion agreement empowers us to consider the needs of people with disabilities in even more in the daily business routine, and support them better. We started from the belief that our employees are not to be measured by what they cannot do, but by what they are really good at.
Perdita Müller: The inclusion agreement benefits all parties. Bertelsmann benefits from the high level of motivation, creativity and commitment of employees both with and without disabilities – the diversity of the teams creates its very own, positive dynamic. Employees with disabilities can, as far as possible, participate in working life again, or do more and show what they are capable of. They contribute significantly to their company's economic success – so inclusion doesn't just mean appreciation of people, but also an appreciation in value.
Perdita Müller: I'm convinced that this idea, as I have just expressed it, is as important in sports as it is in business. If you give people the opportunity and even encourage them to get involved, to realize their dreams, maybe even surpass themselves, then that releases tremendous motivation – often with astonishing results. Why does a young woman with an amputated leg get on a road bike and train hard for a year for the Paralympics like Denise Schindler? Incidentally, she works for a Bertelsmann company and was granted a sabbatical for this training. Because she wants to. Because she can. She wants to give it her all and to show everyone. It's great that people who want it as much as she does get the chance to do so. Whether as an athlete at the Paralympics or as an employee with a disability in a company. We just have to let them – and support them as much as we can. The Paralympic Games help immensely in this respect, especially when they get as much attention as this year, in recognizing the needs and concerns of people with disabilities.
Perdita Müller: I think it's a wonderful idea to transfer the universally shared enthusiasm for sports, people's emotions and respect for the great achievements of athletes, to the world of people with disabilities – and thus to recognize something that is really quite self-evident: We are all people. Whether we have a disability or not. It was interesting, for example, to see the reaction of children sitting next to me in the audience at a competition in Rio. In the first competition, they asked their parents about the athletes' disabilities. The next time it was only the times and lengths of the athletes that interested them. That's how quickly it happens.
Perdita Müller: Above all, they can do something that should be self-evident: judge all people not by their limitations, but by their performance. Companies that select their employees accordingly and promote their strengths will profit from this. Our job as representatives for employees with disabilities is to get this idea into people's heads, in this case into the heads of managing directors. We have already achieved a great deal in this matter at Bertelsmann – but there is still much to do.