North German gentleman meets Bavarian rascal. Alex and Felix are our ambassadors for Wheelmap in Italy. They make a perfect team. Since “La Skarrozzata” in Bologna, we will not want to do without them anymore.
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At the Skarrozzata in Bologna, we have came to know them as friendly, Italian-speaking networkers and as the bubbly voice at the megaphone. However, Alexander Bock and Felix Jäger are more than that, of course. We interviewed them about their commitment, Italy, their wishes, and plans for the future.
Who are you and what’s your deal with Italy?
Alex: I’d say, I am currently on a discovery journey and I have particularly fallen for Italy. It was triggered by my wish to pass an international master program and to learn more about culture and social things after I had finished my studies in economy and had been in a job for some time. You know, those things that otherwise get the short end of the stick. Since September 2012, I therefore study culture management at the university in Bologna. During the second year of my studies, I have mainly attended courses about social entrepreneurship in Copenhagen. There are a lot more things which unite Germany and Italy than just holidays/vacations and the occasional visit at the Italian restaurant around the corner. There is a lot of mutual respect and in a German-Italian cooperation, many skills intertwine. Today, I incredibly cherish the friendships that came to be.
Felix: I am Felix. I study cultural sciences in Passau and for some inexplicable, affective reason I decided to study Italian instead of French at high school. Somehow, I got stuck with Italian. I also chose Italy as the specific cultural area for my studies. Furthermore, I studied at the “Università degli Studi di Verona” for one semester and my girlfriend is from Italy as well.
What is your motivation in supporting wheelmap.org in Italy?
Alex: In Italy, there currently is big movement going on regarding “mapping”. Several local initiatives and companies develop their own solutions. I think that Wheelmap can make a contribution and act as a model in a way in order to stop reinventing the wheel again and again in the proverbial sense. By now, a great team has formed out of a project at university. With this team, I am trying to bring the Wheelmap and topics such as accessibility and mobility to other Italian cities as well within the framework of small actions/projects.
Felix: Wheelmap.org simply is a stunner. There hardly exists a simpler way to support those people who have to live with reduced mobility in our society. Regarding Italy, I just mainly have the language competence and therefore, it immediately suggests itself that I try to participate actively at best in Italy.
What is the situation like regarding mobility-impaired people in Italy?
Alex: Due to the many historic buildings, the challenges to the wheelchair-accessible/barrier-free architecture is high of course. However, many public facilities have found very feasible solutions. As far as the cityscape is concerned, it is often a different situation. Rough cobbled streets or uneven sidewalks are seen as “distinctive” by some, and for people in wheelchairs or without eyesight, it is attended with big struggles and risks. Unfortunately, the communes, provinces, and regions have less and less money to pour into necessary reparations. Moreover, the situation gets worse the farther south one goes. In the minds of the Italian people, the tolerance and willingness to help towards mobility-impaired people is very high – it already starts in school.
Felix: Well, the situation still leaves a lot to be desired. In Italy, there do exist lots of listed buildings and streets. Therefore, it is often difficult to just simply change things even if the will to change exists.
If you had a wish, what would be the first thing you would want to change?
Alex: If I take a look outside: I’d change the weather in North Germany.
Felix: Oh dear! That’s difficult. If one takes a look at the last years, I would probably unify all religions into one. All those extremists would be jobless at a stroke and could use their energy for social purposes! ;)
What are your plans for the future?
Felix: Finish studying, ook for a job, getting married, have children, retire, get a dog, and retreat to a mountain hut to pass away. … Or, I open a hotel in Cuba… Or perhaps I might try to usurp the world dominion again. What sort of questions are these? :D
Alex: First of all, I will write my Master’s thesis and then I will celebrate the graduation in Bologna in December. Jobwise, I would like to devote myself to social engagement in economy especially including employees. Just now, I am thinking about going to North America for some time after the graduation… there, things like corporate volunteering or private promotion of culture are absolutely normal. For that reason, this step really tickles my fancy. However, I will always be drawn to Italy.
Do you wanna become active and support Wheelmap in your own region or city? Learn here how you can become an ambassador.