Thursday, June 16, 2016

One small step for people with disabilities - Help make it a giant leap

A Bizchut protest event [Image Source]
I'm pleased to share that my emails, phone calls and, I confess, outright nagging, finally bore fruit. I was provided a written statement by Bizchut, The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities, Israel's foremost advocacy group for that population, regarding institutionalization.

The person to whom the Bizchut CEO referred me, their lobbyist, conceded that she no longer tackles public opinion. She maintained that speaking and writing about the detriments of institutions is futile and irrelevant. Instead, she  fights solely on the legislative and judicial fronts. "That's all that matters," she insisted. Change, she emphasized repeatedly, will only grace us via meetings with Knesset committee members and, petitions to the High Court.

Writing articles is pointless, she told me and, I presume, that included blogging.

Nevertheless, I intend to continue pursuing those routes. For me, the power of the pen (or the clout of the keyboard?) endures. As long as the plague of institutionalization not only persists but thrives, as long as our government generously funds those institutions and as long as public relations for institutions inundates the web -  anti-institutionalization writing can play a role.

Below is the statement which the Bizchut lobbyist sent me. (It came in Hebrew; the translation to English is mine.) She gave me carte blanche to circulate it and I urge you readers to do the same.
Every framework that contains a group of over six residents with disabilities living together, receiving all services (recreational, meals, health, work) in one place with no real contact with or full integration into the community, is an institution. 
Thus, hostels with 24 residents with disabilities are institutions. And certainly Aleh and all the other frameworks housing hundreds of residents with disabilities together in a closed place where they receive all their services is an institution.  
Bizchut's position is that integration into the community must be natural not contrived. Occasionally bringing in volunteers for chance, once-off visits or for structured encounters with the institution's residents is not integration.  
Integration is the inclusion of a person with disabilities in the fabric of normal life within the community and the getting of services in the same manner that the general population gets them in the community. Anything that does not fit this description is, by definition, an institution. 
Who may live within the community? Bizchut's position is that every person with every kind of disability and at every level of functioning is entitled to live within the community. 
Even people who function on a very low level have the right to live within the community. It is a basic right of theirs. Society must provide them full support to enable them to fulfill/realize that right safely and optimally. 
This includes people with significant physical and cognitive disabilities who need a great deal of assistance in all realms of daily life.

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