“LEBENSWELT” are institutions of the Hospitaller Brothers in Linz, where people with special needs and deafness have tasks, work and home in therapeutic communities which support their development. These therapeutic communities see themselves as part of life in the local communities, which is expressed through the names of the respective institutions - “Lebenswelt” + the name of the municipality”. Secured communication, especially through Austrian Sign Language, and the unconditional appreciation of each person make personal relationships and individual development possible in a living community which is guided by the joyous message of Jesus. Everyone takes part in this community, regardless of their disability, profession or role.
The Order of the Hospitaller Brothers refers to Saint John of God who dedicated his life to the needy and sick in Spain in the 16th Century after an experience of conversion. The Order is a worldwide legal entity of hospitals and institutions for people on the edge of society.
The target group of “Lebenswelt” are people with deafness (hearing disability) and other disabilities, so-called “Deaf Plus”. Even if the additional disabilities are heterogeneous (intellectual, physical, sensory, psychosocial etc.), our members actually have one thing in common: According to the absence of the auditory channel, processes of communication primarily have to be created visually: with signs and systems of pictures. The needs of dually sensory impaired people, those who are deaf and blind, are particularly taken into consideration. People with a higher need for supported communication are also included in the target group of “Lebenswelt”.
People are welcomed regardless of their age, gender and religion, whereas especially the evaluation of the potential of development considering participation in the community is the decisive criterion for the admission.
Each human being has a natural potential that often first needs to be uncovered, discovered and supported. There are also developments in old age or illness that must be processed first. Safety and persistence in the community have a special meaning. Therefore, accepting the people as they are is very important.
The staff members are involved in the process of development as well, even if they often see themselves as development aid workers to help the partcipants develop their natural abilities.
Access to a community and its social processes has been almost impossible for many Deaf Plus since their childhood and later in life due to communication barriers. The consequences are seen in a lack of social, emotional and cognitive development.
The original meaning of “therapy” or “therapeutic” comes from the Greek “therapeuein”, which means to adore, to be a servant, to serve, to treat somebody well or to try to win somebody over.
In addition, “therapeuein” means to care for somebody and to educate.
The community, seen as a social fabric, a "social biotope", has the effect of supporting, helping, developing, challenging, changing, healing… each person who is part of this community. A community of people with completely different personality traits, abilities and backgrounds enforces the personal development of each person.
A "therapeutic community" enables development in the sense of "forming" or "taking shape" through friendly interaction, solving conflicts together, caring for or nurturing each other, always with high respect for the person.
The dynamics of this community is being perceived and created consciously. This means the therapeutic community offers this special group access to elementary social learning experiences and connects them to chances of development.
To be understood and to understand, acceptance, participation within the local community and meaningful occupation are key elements of the home “Lebenswelt”.
Finding home means having a place (geographically as well as in relation to people) where the person is welcome and belongs to the community, which means she/he can be herself/himself and is involved in creating her/his personal surroundings.
This includes having a say in daily tasks and in the working space.
“Lebenswelt” has a secured visual communication within the institution and is a “linguistic island” in the municipality. The experience has shown that the safety of a smaller community encourages the participants to introduce themselves to the bigger community of the municipality. This strong connection and inclusion (participation) is being expressed on one hand through the name “Lebenswelt + the name of the municipality”.
On the other hand, the local community is encouraged to learn and practice Austrian Sign Language, the way of communication used in “Lebenswelt”. Joint projects and different celebrations also support living together.
Communication is the key to the establishment of relationships and to the personal development in different fields. People with a sensory impairment and limited ability to communicate face disadvantages in everyday life, which cannot be compensated by the public or the society. Therefore, we create certain conditions within our institutions to ensure a successful communication. Sign language, accompanied by mimics and gestures, is the most important form of communication, which secures the dialogue with hearing impaired people. In addition, a wide variety of pictorial plans, that can be classified into the field of supported and alternative communication, are being found in the “Lebenswelt”. We are also eager to learn as much of Austrian Sign Language and other visual and alternative forms of communication, since this is key for the inclusion of all participants.
For us, unconditional appreciation of each person means that each human being carries their dignity within of them. This dignity cannot be taken away from anyone, regardless of what someone does or is able to do. Bad behaviour and deficits cannot change this neither. No one should have to earn appreciation and respect. It is fundamental that every person has to be accepted and appreciated as a human being without any conditions. The experience of this unconditional appreciation and acceptance has a healing effect on everyone in the community.
The unconditional appreciation leads to an unconditional acceptance and makes the quality of a relationship possible where the person can be herself/himself with all of his/her faults, weaknesses, strengths and individualities. Entering into a personal relationship means making oneself available as a person. This manifests itself in sharing, hoping and mourning together, scolding each other, apologizing and forgiving, helping and encouraging each other - participating and letting someone participate in life. This leads to being a friend to each other.
Something hidden comes to light, which is not predictable or to be expected because it is entirely individual and not comparable with others. Only the development reveals what has actually been there all along. However, the process of development is exactly as individual, as what comes to light.
Abilities given by the Creator should be more and more visible. The vision of the potential of every human being guides the therapeutic process. Embracing this vision, a considerable meaning comes towards the important work in a structured daily routine, also regarding the development of the personal identity.
Every person is an important part of the whole community. Especially because of the individuality and uniqueness of each person, the community is like a body with all of its organs - or a biotope. Being together keeps the organism functional, alive and healthy.
The feeling of being “Us” is strengthened through mutual events and values, as well as empathy. The connection of “individual with common” is a qualitative sign of a successful community.
The stories about the life of Jesus inform us very vividly about unconditional acceptance, personal relationships, therapeutic community oriented towards development, home or individual development. Because of that, the reports about Jesus of Nazareth are a Gospel which helps to bring this basic principle to life.
This is what the many examples in the Gospels show us, for example:
These contents of the Gospels are being told, painted, acted out, explained during "Pryer Services" and transferred to our daily life regularly. The Gospel clearly expresses to be accepted by God without borders and with that, it makes free to forgive each other.
This community is constantly developing, like a large construction site or garden, where everyone works together, regardless of their role, ability and talent, function and position. The professional workers also do not see themselves as providers of services, but as participants, which they are being perceived as. In addition to that, the “Lebenswelt” sees itself as part of the local community in the place and therefore contributes to the community.
Joy of life through community.
Community through common language.
Understanding through sign language.
Development through understanding.