Accessible Zalando

When I joined Zalando last year, Henning[1] (my manager) told me there is one problem: the only accessible bathroom was on the ground floor.

The sad truth is this is the German accessibility standard for public buildings. At least a single wheelchair accessible bathroom and it has to be on the ground floor. This is the case in government buildings, museums, and our Rocket Internet office.

It was fine until other problems arose. The floor doors were heavy, making them impossible for me to open. The bathroom was outside of the security area, requiring someone from the security personnel to open the doors for me every time I wanted to use the bathroom. And the situation in other buildings wasn’t that different.

Henning asked me to write a document describing the problems with different offices. I was skeptical but wrote it on a “won’t lose anything” basis. It was one page. The core argument was that someone who is generally slower shouldn’t be required to take the longest time to reach essential facilities like the bathroom.

Somehow the one pager escalated inside the company and I found corporate real estate contacting me saying they got a mandate to solve those problems. After many discussions they changed one of the doors in the Rocket building to an automatic one, and initiated a big project to retrofit and adapt current buildings to be accessible.

This Monday we moved into a new office in the Zalando campus. The building wasn’t designed with accessibility in mind before my one pager. It got retrofitted to have automatic doors on each floor, and a wheelchair accessible bathroom on every second floor.

I do believe in the good of humanity but I believe more in desires and incentives. There is no financial benefit to make workplaces wheelchair accessible. It costs a lot of money, and the return on investment is not justifiable[2].

I am still puzzled by what the company did. They didn’t have to, but they did it because they believed it was the right thing. It makes me grateful for being in this place with those people, and for making a change for the good of all.

When there is a will, there is a way.




I finally started showing satisfactory results. Last week was the most successful with least amount of food thrown away. 

I have many constraints that force me to think deeply to find the right cooking setup.

I don’t have the muscular strength to cut hard things for long time or mix things with my hands. This leads to depending more on machines like mixers and blenders.

I have the height problem. The cook is higher than what I can reach. This has been the case in every apartment I rented. This makes my safest option things that I can cook in the oven. I can still use a pot or a frying pan but I have limited functionality. This problem extends to the kitchen top. I can’t use it. So I have to find an alternative.

I solved the height problem by placing the desk right in front of the kitchen. I use the desk as a kitchen top to prepare the meal before bringing it to the cook or the oven.
This is the pot I use for everything. The lid has a lock mechanism that I can use and flip the pot to drain the water. It is handy and minimizes the risk involved with having to move the food from a pan to a place to drain the water out and then serve it in plates.

I am limited in time. Since I am slower than an average person I have to make sure the things I cook don’t take long and don’t require multiple sophisticated steps. An example of this is dishes that require marinating something then waiting then mixing it with something then putting it in the fridge then putting everything in the oven. I can’t do this.

I am limited in space. I can’t utilize the whole upper part of my kitchen. This leads to having to prioritize my purchases in kitchen equipment and optimize my storage in a way that makes a place for everything I need. Only the things I need.

And I am limited in effort. Washing the dishes is a big effort for me. I have to do some acrobats to reach the kitchen sink and be able to do it. Luckily I have a dish washer that I use almost everyday.

With all those challenges I finally managed to find a setup that allows me to start cooking. At the beginning the results were horrible as with everything one starts learning. Over time I am getting better and so does the outcome.

Blockhouse Steak
This is what we call in Egypt “Kofta”. It is different than the Lebanese/Turkish one but the concept is almost the same.
As a Chickentarian, I am still not satisfied by my chicken outcome. But this is the furthest progress I have made so far.

If you have suggestions or questions the comments section is below.