Making the Most of Your Potential
In 2018, WACKER received an award from the Bavarian government. Our company is good at inclusion. We set an example for other companies.
Four WACKER colleagues explain how they reach their full potential at work. Despite their disabilities. It’s not always easy. But they enjoy what they do and this helps them overcome all obstacles, large and small. WACKER made an agreement in 2003. We want at least 2 young people with disabilities to have the chance to train at our company every year.
Everyone pulls together.
Philipp Ellguth was our first trainee under this agreement. He decided straightaway in 2003 to train as a chemical lab assistant with us. He made the decision without giving it much thought. And he has never looked back: he works in our lab to this day.
Before training with us, he attended a business school. This school did not focus on math, physics or chemistry. Because these subjects were important for his training, Philip had a hard time. Yet as a child he learned to persevere and not to quit. A deformity in both hands meant he often had to work harder than others to succeed.
When he began his training, he had to learn a lot. But it soon became easier and in the end, he gained his qualification. Later he upgraded his skills by qualifying as a lab technician.
Philipp Ellguth hopes that people will trust their colleagues with disabilities more and doubt less.
Today, he has a good job at WACKER SILICONES. He is also the deputy Disability Liaison Officer. Philipp Ellguth is open and takes an interest in others. That’s why disabled colleagues feel he understands them well.
He has noticed that people with disabilities are often more capable than you realize. He hopes for less doubt and more trust in dealing with people with disabilities. He encourages those affected to have more self confidence. He is a great example of what can be achieved despite his physical challenges. He says: “I have a secure job at a great company. It wasn’t easy. But my training and job have changed my life for the better.”
Small Things Often Mean a Lot
What is special about the inclusive working environment at WACKER? Actually, there is nothing special. Many colleagues with disabilities don’t need special equipment at their work stations. But if they do, WACKER naturally provides what they need.
Mirjam Nagl realizes that small things are often very important.
Mirjam Nagl is the Group Disability Liaison Officer. Her colleagues are Philipp Ellguth, Stefan Kaiser and Wolfgang Baddack. They work together to ensure that disabled colleagues at WACKER can work well. Sometimes something small can go a long way. Like an office chair with a neck support or an electrically adjustable desk.
Stefan Kaiser is the ideal person to contact if your sight is impaired. His sight has been severely impaired since birth. He has 10-percent vision. What does this mean? See for yourself: Take a pair of binoculars and turn them round. Look through the bottom end. Now you have an idea of what Stefan Kaiser sees: he can see shapes and colors clearly. But every thing is very small. For you, this is unusual, but for him it’s normal. Stefan says: “That’s my 100 percent.”
For Stefan Kaiser, his 10% sight is all he has. Yet he has achieved a lot with this 10%.
Stefan began his training as an office administrator at WACKER in 1990. He was the first visually impaired trainee. Back then no one at WACKER knew what obstacles and difficulties he would face doing office work. But the responsible parties were willing to give it a try. “We always spoke openly to each other and managed to find good solutions to problems that arose.”
The Federal Employment Agency paid for Stefan’s first set of special equipment: a PC and a big screen. At that time there were no zoom options, and other aids for people with visual impairments were very expensive. Sadly, nothing has changed.
Stefan joined the IT department in 1997. IT stands for Information Technology. IT is all about computers, computer programs and the internet. Stefan handles many tasks there. For example, he has to make sure that the computers’ technical systems work properly. He was also responsible for setting up Windows 10 for colleagues at all WACKER sites.
Special equipment helps to make working on a computer easier.
Stefan’s blind and visually impaired colleagues are very important to him. He knows from experience the hardships they face at work. He has made it easier for them to work with a computer. For example, there are programs that make the screen display much bigger. Or there are programs that read the text on the screen out loud.
Stefan often experimented with different programs and aids. And he has found good solutions by combining computer programs and aids. Today, all visually impaired colleagues can use these aids at work.
Wolfgang Baddack is also a Disability Liaison Officer. He works at WACKER SILICONES in Burghausen. as a deputy shift supervisor. He’s an expert in back pain.
Wolfgang Baddack takes precautions to make sure his back stays healthy at work.
For many years, he did heavy physical work. 15 years ago, he had several slipped-disc incidents and was in great pain. His back pain was so bad that he was granted what is known in Germany as equivalent status. Equivalent status means he has almost the same rights as people with disabilities. For example, special protection against dismissal. And he gets funding for special equipment at his work space.
Note: In Germany, it is the Federal Employment Agency that decides if you get equivalent status. To find out more about equivalent status, visit the Federal Employment Agency’s website (available in German only): click here
Nowadays, Wolfgang Baddack can cope with his pain. To be on the safe side, he still regularly has massages and is treated for osteopathy.
These days, work has become easier. Machines do much of the heavy work. But you still have to lift or carry heavy items. When doing so, it’s important to make sure that your posture is right. It’s the only way to protect your health.
Thomas Seitz is a chemical lab technician at WACKER POLYMERS. He works in a lab and pilot plant. His disability isn’t a hindrance there.
Thomas lost his hearing when he was 6. Before he started school, he could hear and speak. That’s a big help because it means he can lipread easily when someone speaks to him. It’s much harder for people who are born deaf.
Thomas Seitz feels he is treated as an equal.
Thomas wears a hearing aid. It enables him to hear loud noises. But he can’t understand any words. That’s why he looked for a job he could do without using a phone. In the lab, he can work just like the others. If there’s an announcement, his colleagues explain what was said. Some have even learned simple sign language. For example, hand signs and simple gestures. They can use these signs to communicate with Thomas. The only special equipment Thomas has is a flash signal in the pilot plant. It is a signal that you can not only hear, but see, too.
A sign language interpreter attends general employee meetings or other important events. She translates the speeches or the information into sign language so that deaf colleagues can follow what is said. Mirjam Nagl and Thomas Seitz support the sign language interpreter.
“We have one special wish. We’d like a prejudice-free workplace. Everyone in the company helps to make our company successful.” That’s what Dr. Christian Hartel said on receiving the award from the Bavarian government. Ellguth, Kaiser, Baddack and Seitz can confirm that this is a given at WACKER.
More than 900 people with disabilities work for the WACKER Group. That exceeds legal requirements. Many of them share Thomas’ view. He says: “I feel accepted as an equal.”
What Does Inclusion Mean?
Inclusion means people with and without disabilities are treated as equals.
- Inclusion means that everyone naturally belongs. It does not matter if someone has a disability or not.
- Inclusion affects all areas of life: at work, in your free time and where you live. Barrier-free surroundings are necessary.
- Everyone benefits from inclusion. For example: if there are not only stairs but also elevators, that is also convenient for people who do not use a wheelchair.
If it is natural for everyone to belong everywhere, differences will no longer be made.
What Is an Inclusive Workplace?
An inclusive workplace means that people with a disability have the same opportunities on the labor market as anyone else.
- People with and without disabilities work side by side in companies as a matter of course. Supervisors are role models for treating each other with respect and helping one another. Employees with disabilities don’t get preferential treatment. But they get the support they need to perform to the best of their ability.
- The company has different ways of meeting any special needs that employees may have. For example, there are special workplace aids. Or you can adjust working hours to suit the employee’s capability.
Written in Plain English by WACKER’s Language Services (CC-LS)
Wacker Chemie AG
81737 Munich, Germany