Further Empowering People with Disabilities
A senior Government official breaking down in tears during a Cabinet meeting is a rare event – certainly in Israel. So when the Foreign Minister (now also the Prime Minister) did just that in May following adoption of a bill for people with disabilities, it naturally grabbed some headlines.
Of course, the Minister has been quite public – and passionate – about being the father of an autistic daughter. But personal sentiments aside, empowering people with disabilities needs to be a matter of overall Government policy. That indeed happened when the bill was unanimously passed into law about a month later by the Knesset (parliament), thus providing Israelis with disabilities with more of the support – financial and otherwise – necessary to facilitate their independent living choices.
In another development expected to alleviate independent living challenges for people with disabilities, the Housing Ministry recently decided (Hebrew) to require construction contractors involved in the Government-supervised, long-term apartment rental program to make more than 300 housing units (3%) fully accessible – including relevant adaptations to entrances, corridors, bathrooms and kitchens – among those soon to be built. While the modest initiative will not solve broad challenges in the private rental market, the Ministry intends to consider a similar measure in regular tenders in the future.
Looking further down the road, the Israel Innovation Authority is partnering with the National Insurance Institute Funds on a new tender to encourage R&D of assistive technologies for people with disabilities “in order to allow them equal opportunity and full integration in society and the labor market.” According to the tender, the proposed financial incentives are intended for Israeli companies and nonprofit organizations (the Hebrew-language version notes a mid-August deadline).
Good thing the tender is open to nonprofits, which in Israel play a significant role in this context. This was accentuated in a big way by the Vienna-based Zero Project organization, which focuses on removing barriers faced by people with disabilities, in its 2022 annual report on innovative solutions to increase accessibility worldwide. The document recognizes the work (pages 69-73) of a number of Israeli civil society organizations (most of whom are also highlighted by our own interactive map): Access Israel (whose annual conference will be held in mid-September); JDC Israel in partnership with Israel Elwyn and the Justice Ministry; Enosh; and Voiceitt.
We’re encouraged to see the cooperation among Government, private and civil society sectors. Barriers that still exist can only be removed through such partnerships.