What are my legal rights as a person with a disability?
Many only think of people in wheelchairs when it comes to disabilities. However, disability is multifaceted and there are also invisible disabilities. Learning difficulties, chronic and mental illnesses, for example, can also be considered disabilities. It does not matter if the disability is something with which the individual is born or a condition caused by an accident or illness. On this page, you can learn more about the rights and aid possibilities for people with disabilities in Germany.
What do I need to know?
Disability is defined as a limitation of physical, psychological or mental ability that lasts longer than six months and prevents the person from living a life typical of their age. Disabilities include not just physical disabilities or neurodiversity (e.g. learning difficulties), but also chronic illnesses (such as rheumatism, multiple sclerosis, cancer) and mental illness.
There are several degrees of disability (in German: "Grade von Behinderung" or "GdB") ranging from 20 to 100. The higher your GdB (i.e. the harder your disability), the more support you receive from the state. Your doctor will determine what your GdB is.
Good to know: Neurodiversity means that there are many different types of brains and that this is both natural and valuable. People with different thought patterns, abilities and behavioral patterns are valued. This includes people with autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other neurodiverse characteristics. The idea behind it is to accept and respect differences without stigmatising people and to promote a world in which everyone is recognised regardless of their way of thinking. To find out more, take a look at the NeuroDivers e.V. website. There you will find information and counseling services.
The German state supports people with disabilities to compensate for the disadvantages they have to face due to their conditions. This regulation is called "disadvantage compensation" („Nachteilsausgleich“ ). Disabled people can, for instance, benefit from the following:
- Special medical care
- Assistance in job hunting or protection from dismissal
- A household helper
- Support for childcare costs
- Cost-free use of buses & trains
- Early retirement
- Lower taxes
But not every person with a disability is entitled to all of these special supports. Your personal condition determines if such support options apply to you and when so, from which ones you can benefit.
To apply for support from the state, you must first register for a "Disability Card" ("Schwerbehindertenausweis"). Only people with a severe disability (a GdB of 50 or higher) can obtain this card. To apply for a "Disability Card", you must fill the relevant form and hand it in (along with all your medical certificates) to your local Pension Office ("Versorgungsamt"). You can find the proper office at schwerbehindertenantrag.de. In case your GdB is lower than 50, you may still be able to benefit from the support you need under some circumstances. To do so, seek help from a counselling centre.
You can find help, for example, at the Migration counselling centre for Adults or a Youth Migration Service. The staff there speak different languages. You can also access special counselling for people with disabilities (in German) at teilhabeberatung.de.
Please note: You can apply for a "Disability Card" regardless of your residence status, which means even if you are still in the asylum procedure or have a Tolerated Stay ("Duldung"), you can still obtain a "Disability Card".
You can find counselling centres in your area on our local information page. Enter the name of your city and search for asylum, residence or legal counselling centres nearby. All counselling centres also provide support to people with disabilities. For instance, you can go to a Migration counselling centre for Adults- or if you are under 27, seek advice from a Youth Migration Service (JMD) in your area. The staff in both organisations speak various languages.
You can also access special counselling for people with disabilities (in German) at teilhabeberatung.de.
Altrnatively, you can contact one of the five organisations and associations which offer support to people with disabilities in Germany - where you can find detailed information about everyday life, law, work, health insurance and various other matters related to people with disabilities (in German):
- Federal Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted ("Deutscher Blinden – und Sehbehindertenverband", DBSV)
- Federal Association for People with Physical and Multiple Disabilities ("Bundesverband für Körper und Mehrfachbehinderte", BVKM)
- Federal Association for the Disabled ("Bundesverband Selbsthilfe Körperbehinderter e. V.", BSK)
- German Association for the Deaf ("Deutscher Gehörlosenbund")
- Federal Association of Lifetime Help for People with Mental Disabilities ("Bundesvereinigung Lebenshilfe für Menschen mit geistiger Behinderung")
The youth welfare office in your municipality or district is responsible for children with disabilities and offers advice and support to families. At www.jugendaemter.com you will find the Youth Welfare Office responsible for you. To learn more about your rights and opportunities, you can also check www.familienratgeber.de and www.kindergesundheit-info.de. Furthermore, on www.bvkm.de, you will find a helpful brochure concerning children with disabilities and their needs, and on www.patiententelefon.de, you can benefit from a useful collection of links and contact information for parents.
The inclusion of children with disabilities in regular schools is promoted in Germany, but these children can also attend specialised schools, which are tailored to fit their particular needs. The Youth Welfare Office responsible for you or Youth Migration Service (JMD) in your area can provide you with more specific advice.
You are only allowed to park in a disabled parking space (“Behindertenparkplatz”) if you have a “severely disabled” ID card and a so-called “disabled parking permit”(“Behindertenparkausweis”). The disabled parking permit is usually only issued for people who have "exceptionally impaired mobility" (code: aG) or are blind (code: "Bl"). In some federal states, severely disabled people, i.e. code "G" and "B" receive a disabled parking permit as well. Severely disabled people without a disabled parking permit are not allowed to park in a disabled parking space.
Important: you don't have to drive yourself. For example, you can also apply for a disabled parking permit for your severely disabled child. Then, when your child is in the car, you can use the disabled parking space.
The authority responsible for your application (for the disabled parking permit) can differ from city to city. Ask your local municipality or city administration where you can apply for the parking permit. You can also find help at a Migration Counselling Service or the Youth Migration Service.
Important: If you park in a disabled parking space without a disabled parking permit, you will have to pay a fine. Also, your car can be towed at your expense.
Public toilets for the disabled at service areas, train stations, pedestrian zones, etc. are generally not freely accessible. To be able to use it, you need a so-called "Euro key" or “Euroschlüssel”. With this special key you can unlock and use all toilets for the disabled throughout Europe. You can request the key from the "Club for Disabled People and Friends" (Club Behinderter und ihrer Freunde) for a fee of 23 euros. The prerequisite for this is that you have a severely disabled person's pass with one of the following codes: aG, B, H, or BL. Persons with a severely handicapped ID with the code G are also entitled if their GdB (grade of disability) is 70 or higher.
In the case of disabled toilets in restaurants, hotels or businesses, the owner determines whether these toilets are also accessible to non-disabled people. In general, however, the following applies: Toilets for the disabled should be kept free for those people who really need them.
Unfortunately, there is still no nationwide barrier-free emergency call for people who are deaf or with partial hearing and those who do not use spoken language to communicate. In some cities, there are regional emergency numbers which you can also contact via SMS. Private app providers such as Handhelp, Tess, MeinNotruf and InstantHelp are alternative options for a voice-free emergency call.