The Mathilde Escher Foundation was founded in 1865 and provides specialized housing, training, work, and leisure opportunities for people with muscle-wasting diseases in Zurich, Switzerland. Lukas Fischer is the Head of Communications and Head of the Graphic design workshop at the foundation. He is committed to the foundation’s goal of supporting people with Duchenne, and other muscle wasting conditions, to take charge of their lives.
Following a degree in social work, Lukas was working as a driver for people with disabilities when he first heard of the Mathilde Escher Foundation. After learning about the lives of his passengers and their determination, he became inspired to help within the disabled community, which led to Lukas starting a career at the Mathilde Escher foundation.
Lukas has been working at the foundation since 2003. Initially he worked within the Living and Leisure Department, where he promoted the Mathilde Escher ethos by supporting residents in carrying out their daily activities, whilst maintaining their independence and autonomy. Lukas notes that he learnt a lot during his time within the department and he admired the residents’ upbeat view on life and positivity, despite their conditions. After a busy few years, he transitioned to the Learning and Working department, where he currently leads the graphics workshop ‘création handicap’, a working studio which employs residents. Lukas has proudly seen the department go from strength to strength, from offering training in office administration, to its recent addition of a marketing and media department, allowing the residents to gain experience in emerging creative areas.
Lukas is particularly proud of the Foundation’s ‘Pause’ Magazine, which is developed by apprentices with disabilities and presents a range of in-depth topics told directly through the lens of the residents themselves, from their past experiences to future hopes, plans and fears. The graphic’s workshop has also had great success in developing and selling personalized greeting cards. Each of these is created exclusively by the residents themselves and encompasses a unique design. The foundation sells around 20,000 of these cards annually. In addition, graphic services are provided. For example, the development of logos, the design of flyers or the design and programming of websites. Alongside encouraging independence and creativity, this provides an opportunity for residents to improve their employability and produce popular in-demand items.
Lukas has seen first-hand the value of encouraging independence through improving workplace skills for those among the disabled community, and in the future, he is keen to further improve the Learning and Working departments at Mathilde Escher by building additional facilities beyond the graphic workshop. After seeing the successes of the Foundation’s Learning and Working Department, he is hopeful in the future that more external employers will be able to find ways to integrate the disabled community into the mainstream work force. Lukas plans to continue working to improve inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities, in all areas of society from work to sports and recreation to housing, and political participation.
Lukas notes that he enjoys the constant variety that his role at Mathilde Escher gives him, but he is most inspired by the can-do positive attitude of the people that he works with everyday, and he would like everyone to…“Learn to see people for who they are, and not by their disability or disease.”