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Phone: + 49 6221 54-7697

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Topic Page Disability — Chronic illness — Accessibility



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Glossary — What are we talking about?

Events and Offers — What is happening at the University?

Empowerment and Networking — Where can I connect with others?

Book and audio recommendations — Where can I learn more?


Glossary — What are we talking about?



Disability Studies differentiate between impairment and disability: while impairment refers to the physical part of the disability, like a missing leg, impaired vision or a chronic disease, disability adds a social dimension in which barriers impair and exclude, which is what turns the impairment into a problem.



There are many different ways to think about disabilities. 

The medical view on disability comes from the assumption of a normative, healthy human body without any form of impairment. A disabled person does not fit into this idea of a healthily functioning body.

The social model of disability was created by activists as a reaction to the medical model and is central to the discipline of Disability Studies. Instead of focusing on individual impairments, it looks at disability as something that comes with systematic exclusion and disadvantage in society.

Cultural model
This model examines disability as a culture-historical phenomenon of processes of exclusion which were created by culture-specific interpretations of foreignness and norms.

The Sozialgesetzbuch defines disability as: „Menschen sind behindert, wenn ihre körperliche Funktion, geistige Fähigkeit oder seelische Gesundheit mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit länger als sechs Monate von dem für das Lebensalter typischen Zustand abweichen und daher ihre Teilhabe am Leben in der Gesellschaft beeinträchtigt ist. Sie sind von Behinderung bedroht, wenn die Beeinträchtigung zu erwarten ist.“
(§2 Abs. 1 Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB IX))


Disability Studies

Interdisciplinary field of study which frames disability as socio-historically and culturally constructed and examines the topic with methods of the social and cultural sciences. The development of the discipline was majorly shaped by the disabled activist movement in the US and UK.


Ableism/ Ableismus/ Behindertenfeindlichkeit

These terms refer to the discrimination of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses through insulting language and behaviour or exclusion.


Behinderter Mensch, Mensch mit Behinderung

For many people with disabilities, the terms "behindert" and "Behinderung" are neutral terms. It is crucial, however, to speak of "behinderte Menschen" or "Menschen mit Behinderung", as "der oder die Behinderte" alone reduces the person to only one of their attributes and furthers the stereotype of one homogenous group of disabled people, instead of focusing on their individuality and heterogeneity.


Chronische Krankheit

A chronic illness is a long-lasting, difficult or incurable disease, which often requires recurring medical treatment. Among others, there are: epilepsy, allergies, rheumatic diseases, intestinal diseases, diabetes, lung diseases or multiple sclerosis as well as ADHD, autism, dyslexia or depression. Disabled people are not ill, but chronic illnesses can turn into impairments, which in many cases lead to disabilities.


Barrierefreiheit/ Barrierearmut

Accessibility tries to create an environment in which people with disabilities can take part in leisure, work and society in a self-determined way. This requires the deconstruction of structural, communicative and (especially at University) educational and digital barriers. As complete accessibility is hard to achieve, very often the goal is to create "Barrierearmut".



According to the Landeshochschulgesetz BW, students with disabilities and chronic illnesses are entitled to receive disadvantage compensation. Its goal is to compensate for disadvantages that might result from a person's individual impairments and to create equal opportunities, e.g. through adjusted exam requirements. Possible disadvantage compensations are: more time during exams, digital support, exam support, changing a written exam into an oral exam or using another room for the exam.


Disability mainstreaming

The "Disability Mainstreaming" concept is based on the Convention of the United Nations on the rights of persons with disabilities from 2006 and, similar to "Gender Mainstreaming", is focused on the inclusion and consideration of people with disabilities in all political questions with the intention of achieving equality and more participation of disabled and chronically ill people.



This glossary is partly based on the glossary of



Events and Offers — What is happening at the University?


For Students


For members


The Schwerbehindertenvertretung furthers the inclusion of disabled people at the University, represents their interests and offers support and advice.


Büro der SBV
Im Neuenheimer Feld 346
Raum Nr. 114
69120 Heidelberg
Tel.: +49 6221 54-2125
Fax: +49 6221 54-3699


AG Barrierefreiheit

The Arbeitsgemeinschaft Barrierefreiheit in der Lehre is an initiative by the AK Lehre und Lernen of the StuRa and the Abteilung Hochschuldidaktik. It offers a space for all kinds of people from the University to meet and discuss accessibility and work towards the goal of achieving better studying and working conditions for disabled and chronically ill people at the University.

Interested? Email to: or join the AG Mailing List


Current Events

There are no current events on this topic.


Empowerment and networking — Where can I connect with others?


Interest group Visual Impairment/ Blindness
Interest group Chronic illness
Interest group Bodily Impairment
Interest group Psychological Health

Handycap-Team of the University: Advice, support and finding "buddies"

AG Barrierefreiheit in der Lehre: Mailing list

BiBeZ Heidelberg: Educational and support centre for the assistance and inclusion of disabled/chronically ill women and girls e.V.

Heidelberger Inklusionsatlas

Heidelberg hürdenlos



Book and audio recommendations — Where can I learn more?






Julia Hanstein: E-Mail
Latest Revision: 2023-07-30
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