Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Israel's Interior Minister vs. Accessibility

Bizchut calls for its petition to be signed
You may have thought that Israel is generally sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. After all, this is a first-world country, advanced in most ways, with a disabled population of more than 1.6 million. Of that number, some 51,000 are IDF veterans injured in the line of duty, a revered group.

Israel's flourishing institutionalization enterprises (see this past post of mine for instance: "Even Chief Rabbis make mistakes")and its penchant for warehousing the disabled are surely just an anomaly. Right?

Well, not exactly. Israel is often tone-deaf to the needs of its citizens with disabilities in more ways than one.

Notwithstanding the enactment thirteen years ago of legislation requiring accessibility to all public buildings and services, many remain utterly inaccessible.

Instead of striving for progress in that area, Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, is determined to roll back the clock.

Most local authorities (including the wealthy Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion municipalities) are loathe to spend on accessibility renovations. Consequently the wheelchair-bound, the elderly and parents with strollers find many buildings like kindergartens, schools and libraries, out of bounds..

The Treasury has given 80 million shekels to the weaker local authorities to enable the necessary construction. Last year a total of only 8 million shekels of that grant were used.

Now local authorities have enlisted Deri's aid in amending the law to release them from its obligations. He will accomplish that by suspending the State's powers to enforce the law. Naturally, no enforcement means no further accessibility.

The people at Bizchut are urging all of us who care about accessibility for people with disabilities to voice our protest to Minister Deri by signing their petition here.

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