In the “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group highlights the sustainable contribution made by a wide range of people in the company – and the motivation that inspires them. Today: Tina Schmidt-Kiendl.
Sustainability has many facets at the BMW Group because we are using this term to harmonise business, the environment and society. If we are to successfully put these high standards into practice, we need our employees’ commitment. Everyone can play their part in making the BMW Group sustainable.
So, who are all these colleagues who make sustainability part of their everyday work? What drives them to roll up their sleeves throughout the company? In its “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group introduces employees who play their daily part in the broad and responsible further development of our company.
In this part of our series, Tina Schmidt-Kiendl, Project Manager for Customer Sports Vehicles at the BMW Group, tells us how a driving safety training course she has created specifically helps people with disabilities regain their independence on the road.
Tina Schmidt-Kiendl, you have launched a driving safety training course for people who use wheelchairs. This is to help them regain their independence in road traffic. What motivates you to do this?
Tina Schmidt-Kiendl: Quite simply, even though I am a paraplegic, I still want to drive a car. It makes me independent and I really enjoy driving. But to do that, I need to have more control in road traffic – even more so than other drivers. And it is the same for many others. Besides, in my opinion, everyone has a right to enjoy driving, whether they have a disability or not. When I feel safe behind the wheel, can rely on my skills and am on top of the technology, I enjoy driving.
And how did you come up with the idea of setting up this driver training course yourself?
Schmidt-Kiendl: I have been a BMW Driving Academy instructor since 2003. I have always loved working with course participants, using the latest vehicle technology and being out in the fresh air. When I could no longer walk after an operation, of course training wasn’t the first thing on my mind. But at some point it became clear: I want and need to learn how to drive again, and I only have my hands to do that with. When I was chatting with a friend, the concept came to me. The principle is: if I can learn this, I can teach it to others. Of course, participants must already be able to drive, their driving licence must explicitly state that they have permission to drive a vehicle using their hands only. I want to give them back the joy of driving. I want to give people who are in a similar situation to me their control behind the wheel and the joy of driving back again. If I can learn this again, I can also teach it to others.
That was in 2018. Now you are working full time again and have set up this training programme alongside. You have won patrons and also arranged funding to adapt the vehicles and support the training. It was launched at the beginning of July 2021. A brilliant accomplishment! What gives you strength?
Schmidt-Kiendl: People do. Seeing their beaming faces at the end of a training day. Their feedback was that it was great, it was fun. That gives me an incredible amount of energy. Besides, I’m an incorrigible optimist by nature. I was born that way. That’s why I firmly believe that one day I will be able to walk a few steps again. Of course, the training programme could not be set up entirely on the side. I was able to get some great people on board as patrons. Thanks to this support, we have been able to adapt the vehicles and offer the training on much more favourable terms. This is important because many people with disabilities are not able to work full time.
The project is already receiving terrific support from the patrons. Suppose the Chairman of the Board of BMW AG, Oliver Zipse, were to offer his personal help. What would you like to see happen?
Schmidt-Kiendl: I am currently working on communication. Which platforms should I promote the training programme on? Where can I reach wheelchair users? Drivers at the launch were invited guests; they came from within the company or via Pfennigparade, an inclusive organisation which is a cooperation partner of BMW Bank. The board would therefore be a great advertising platform. If they could mention this driver safety training when they give talks, it would generate a huge amount of attention and I would no longer need to worry about better communication channels. This would be a double help to me personally, because another of my goals is to strengthen the community. People get to know others who live similar lives on days like this. They get talking. Out of this comes community.
You certainly don’t seem to be running out of goals. Is there anything at all slowing you down?
Schmidt-Kiendl: My body, unfortunately. Every now and then it doesn’t play ball as I would like – the nerve pathways are too damaged. I’m working hard on it, with physiotherapy and sport, but I’ve become totally weather-sensitive and notice every change in the weather.
And when is it enough for you, when will you have achieved your goals?
Schmidt-Kiendl: I don’t know yet. I’m only at the very beginning with the new driver safety training. I’ll have more idea in a year or two. By then I will have gained some experience. Maybe others will take over the training and I will devote myself to new challenges. Who knows?
In the upcoming portraits from our “WEffect” sustainability series, committed colleagues will also describe their motivation and explain the contribution they are making to sustainability within the BMW Group.