«To me having a BRO is real inclusion.»
As a wheelchair user, Arndt encounters many barriers in his everyday work. With his assistive device, he compensates for the limitations of his progressive disease and can thus pursue his work independently and flexibly.
Manager, family man and wheelchair user
Arndt Sönnichsen is a manager in the production department of a large company in Germany. He is responsible for a good exchange and relationship between the management and the works councils. This includes all issues that affect the employees such as working conditions, working hours etc. Arndt manages his daily work with his BRO. Because of his neurological disease, a hereditary spastic spinal paralysis (HSP), which gradually paralyses him more and more, he is dependent on a wheelchair. «My working day usually starts at my workplace, and after that I spend the rest of it mostly in meetings or meeting people. Sometimes the meetings take place standing up, sometimes at tables and always in different places. So it’s important for me to be flexible.»
Hereditary (familial) spastic spinal paralysis is a group of inherited diseases in which the leg muscles gradually become spastic and weak. HSP is caused by a genetic defect that is responsible for the faulty production of a protein. This faulty protein triggers a degeneration of nerves in the spinal cord, which means that the nerve impulses are no longer properly conducted to the muscles, resulting in spastic paralysis.
Obstacles are everywhere
«In my work, I have to be where something needs to be sorted out. So I’m on the move all over the site between halls and office buildings.» In doing so, Arndt has to be able to cover large distances relatively quickly and cross roads, footpaths and other obstacles. «With us, every building is a little different and you never know exactly what to expect. Some are very new and barrier-free, others are old and don’t even have an elevator.» Access to the buildings is also always different, so it is enormously helpful for Arndt to have many ways to overcome the various obstacles.
Literally on eye level
«With my assistive device, I compensate for my progressive illness and use it to compensate for the things I can no longer do so well. My BRO gives me the opportunity to speak at eye level on the one hand and to get to where people are on the other.» For Arndt, the height adjustment mode is especially important when he attends meetings that take place standing up or when he meets someone in the corridor. «What BRO can do that no other wheelchair can do is adjust the height at which you sit and talk. There are several others that are also height adjustable, but none come up to the height that BRO does.» This allows Arndt to actually be able to communicate at eye level, even when talking to taller people.
Some of the buildings where his meetings take place don’t have elevators: «If you can just go up the stairs, of course that’s awesome. Apart from that, it’s also pretty cool when people see you arrive. You have a topic of conversation right away, which is really cool and I like it a lot.» How he is perceived makes a big difference: «If you come along in a normal wheelchair and appear to be in need of help, many people are also unsure how to meet you. When you’re on the road in a cool vehicle that can also do technically exciting things, it’s a completely different encounter.» Climbing stairs is an important function for him: «If you have no other way to get to a place, it’s just great. It also happened to me that I was at a meeting on the first floor and wanted to take the same elevator down that I came up in, but it was broken. At that moment I thought to myself: you don’t need it, you have BRO. That’s where the stair mode is just great!» With BRO, Arndt gains flexibility and participation in his everyday work: «To me my BRO is real inclusion. It’s no longer necessary to plan everything that might come up, I can just go for it and do what I want.»