Walburga Fröhlich

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Walburga Fröhlich was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Walburga and Klaus create equal opportunities for people with severe learning difficulties. They seek to fundamentally transform the way in which government and private agencies engage and serve people with severe learning difficulties, and in so doing transform how society perceives their capacities and potential. At the core of their strategy is enabling people with severe learning difficulties to assume leadership roles in defining the accessibility of the environment in which they live and the quality and type of care which they receive.

Traditionally, those suffering from severe learning difficulties have not been included in defining or developing the services they receive. This led to a fundamental and chronic mismatch of services provided. Indeed, people with severe learning difficulties are often left in a state of dependence on state care or trapped in inactivity, severely limiting their ability to reach their full-potential. According to Walburga and Klaus, the institutional-care system for people with severe learning difficulties ought to respond to the needs, perspectives, and interest of those it was designed to serve.

Walburga and Klaus' vision is to make a U-Turn in the prevailing, top-down system for the people with severe learning difficulties by empowering them to control and decide about their own lives. People with severe learning difficulties regain their voice. They become access to crucial information that allows them to take their own choices, and thus, live a self-determined life. They are equipped with tools to evaluate, decide and control the services they receive as well as to assess and address the barriers with which they have to cope in mainstream society. This includes gaining full influence on the facilities where they are cared, choosing in- or out-patient settings, leaving the system and living on their own, and finally, tearing down the multiple barriers that surround them in mainstream society. Walburga and Klaus are creating a bottom-up community of peer-to-peer support and influence, so that gradually more ex-clients of full-day care support services are becoming mutual experts for their peers. People with severe learning difficulties become the experts that drive institutional change and barrier-free landscapes. This vision is being carried out both in particular institutional settings, as well as influencing the system on the province and national levels, replacing the old, traditional, disempowering structures by the novel peer-to-peer approach.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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