"My members contribute to a diverse society"
Two years ago, the German disability rights activist Raul Krauthausen thought that he had exhausted his Steady project potential. But since then, his membership numbers have more than doubled. Raul reveals how he did it in this interview.
Raul Krauthausen campaigns for the rights of people with disabilities. He fights tirelessly for more inclusion and a barrier-free society, managing several media projects at the same time – from newsletters to podcasts and video shows.
Almost 450 members support Raul’s activism on Steady (Opens in a new window). Two years ago, he thought that he’d already reached his limit of Steady project potential, but he’s since more than doubled his number of members.
In the interview, Raul talks about his commitment and explains why his members on Steady (Opens in a new window) are integral to enabling his media work.
You’ve been an activist for a very long time – almost 20 years ago you founded your association Sozialheld:innen. Has anything changed in the field of inclusion and accessibility in the meantime?
There are still enormous structural barriers in our society. I have learned a lot about this in my years as an activist. There is still a lack of awareness – especially amongst legislators – that we need to promote participation and freedom of movement in our society. This can be seen, for example, in the field of innovation. People with disabilities almost always get the short end of the stick when it comes to technological progress.
What do you mean by that exactly?
Here’s a very recent example: everyone is talking about electric mobility, but so far there are no barrier-free electric vehicles. The battery is built into the floor of the car, so you sit higher up. But that makes it difficult to get into the car with a ramp.
In Hanover and Hamburg, there is a ride pooling service provided by MOIA – a VW subsidiary. It's more or less an alternative public transport provider. They recently started to exclusively use electric shuttles. As a result, the entire service is not barrier-free. The legislator should have set clear rules here. Instead, nothing has happened. I find that terrible.
It gives environmental protection a bitter taste.
It excludes a whole group of people. In the future, we have to think about such problems in a much more intersectional way. This means that when it comes to mobility, for example, we should not only ask ourselves how to make it more sustainable, but how to make it sustainable and barrier-free. Otherwise, as in the case of MOIA, environmental protection will end up being played off against accessibility.
Artwork for the German podcast "How can I make a difference?" by Raul Krauthausen. Together with Benjamin Schwarz, he published the book of the same name in October 2021. (Opens in a new window)
We need legislators to regulate such things. So far, our laws regarding accessibility are unfortunately pretty rubbish. That's why with my work I try to win the public over to these issues and to point out problems.
A big part of your work is media projects, which you partly finance through Steady: various podcasts (Opens in a new window), books (Opens in a new window), the talk show Face to Face, (Opens in a new window) the magazine Die neue Norm, (Opens in a new window) your newsletter (Opens in a new window) and so on. Why is media work so important for you?
Because it's fun and I can do it to some extent. And I would like to show that classical media can also be better in certain situations. Like the coverage of the Paralympics, for example. We are constantly told who has had which diagnosis and when – that is still far too much the focus, instead of the fact that athletes are competing against each other.
You published a book recently, what is it about?
At the end of last year, Benjamin Schwarz and I published a book that goes by the same name as my podcast, (Opens in a new window) "How can I make a difference?” (Opens in a new window)In it, we take an intersectional look at activism in Germany. For the podcast, I had numerous conversations with activists about what they have achieved, what they have learned, and how they deal with issues like burnout, or the permanent feeling of powerlessness that one often experiences as an activist.
We addressed this in our book and asked the question: Is there such a thing as constructive activism? In other words, activism that not only denounces but also shows ways out of certain situations. And besides the book, I have many other projects.
We are currently looking at the issue of "violence in care homes for the disabled". The media are quick to talk about individual cases when something that happens comes to public attention. But these are not individual cases. They are structural experiences of violence that people with disabilities go through in our system. That's what we want to address. I think that's very important. And my Steady members help me finance this work.https://youtu.be/qebtBzuQ_mo (Opens in a new window)
Raul Krauthausen started the "home experiment" in 2015. He went undercover in a care home for five days. In the video, he talks about his experiences.
You started your Steady project in 2016. We talked about it two years ago. At that time you had about 200 members and said that the potential was exhausted. Now you have almost 480 members. What has changed?
At some point, I realised that I didn't want to use the money for myself, but to give other people with disabilities the opportunity to express themselves, for example, as a columnist in my newsletter. But also in many other places: There is now a small editorial team that do the newsletter and podcast with me. In addition; there is image creation, managing social media and so on. That costs money.
I used to do all that myself, but unfortunately, money can't buy me time. That's why I use it to hire others and pay them appropriately. This also increased my reach, which in turn led to more members on Steady.https://youtu.be/2UIt-6O9nIk (Opens in a new window)
Raul Krauthausen is almost everywhere on the internet – from Twitter to TikTok and YouTube. You can support his work on Steady. (Opens in a new window)
What else do you do with the money, apart from hiring staff?
I also pay for accessibility with it: on my website, social media, in my podcasts and videos. For example, with images there must be alternative texts that screen readers can read aloud.
Podcasts have to be transcribed, videos subtitled, sometimes a sign language interpreter is needed. It's all a lot of work, and I pay for it with this.
Do you create exclusive content for your members?
No, and this is very important to me: we have to recognise that many people with disabilities don't have that much money. That's why I don't have a paywall. All the articles I produce are available for free. It wouldn't be accessible if I excluded people from accessing my content because they can't afford a membership.
So my members don't get exclusive content, but they are first to get some updates and they also get the opportunity to meet me personally.
You know your members personally?
Yes, I ask my members where they live and have met many in person. If I happen to be in the neighbourhood, I always try to invite people for a coffee. Unfortunately, the pandemic has interrupted this, but I would like to resume it as soon as possible.
And otherwise, there are hangouts with me twice a year, video chats where we all get together and everyone can introduce themselves and ask questions.
Raul Krauthausen meets some of his members for a coffee now and then to exchange ideas.
What kind of people are your members?
Most of them don't have a disability. I think that's great because it gives them a good opportunity to contribute to a diverse society. I always get very good feedback from non-disabled readers who feel that they understand a lot more just by reading my newsletter. They can understand where the debate is in Germany right now, where we need to do better and so on.
Do you have any concluding comments?
I am incredibly grateful to the Steady platform for helping me to finance my work, and also enabling me to reflect on myself and my work. I have always thought a lot about how I could increase the added value for others: For example, how do I best prepare my content so that people who are not so deeply immersed in the subject matter can also get something out of it? I could only do that because Steady gave me the opportunity to build a community of members and try out different things.