Handicapped organizations have reacted with scorn to the debacle, according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Markus Kurth, disability rights spokesman for the Green party, described it as “annoying, embarrassing and stupid.”
The conference, planned for December 2 and 3, was meant to give disabled people the chance to discuss the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with German politicians for the first time in history. The German Disability Council had welcomed the event as a “significant initiative.”
But unfortunately for the organizers, around 300 people registered to take part, including 100 wheelchair users.
That was too many, according to the Bundestag’s management, who explained that fire safety regulations and technical restrictions only allowed room for 30 wheelchairs.
This forced Kurth, along with his counterparts in the other political parties, to send out a joint cancellation notice. The letter explained that organizers had asked Berlin’s fire service and the inspectors from the Berlin urban development ministry to carry out “an intensive inspection,” but to no avail.
“It was not an option to cut the conference down for safety reasons,” the letter said.
Barbara Vieweg, chairwoman of the German Disability Council said the cancellation was a “sign of the hopeless way authorities deal with disabled people and disabled access.”
Adolf Bauer, president of the Social Association (SOVD), which represents the interests of pensioners, disabled people and people in care homes, said “organizational precautions should have been taken to prevent the debacle.”
The event has now been rescheduled for the end of next year, during which technical adjustments will be made. Left party spokesman and wheelchair user Ilja Seifert commented, “reality has caught up with the Bundestag in an unpleasant way.”