Sunday, April 15, 2018

Aleh's dictionary of disabilities

My sculpture: "Mother and Baby" (2008)
Aleh, Israel's largest chain of large, closed institutions for babies, children and adults with disabilities, persistently hijacks terms popular in the current disability narrative for its own advancement.

It misuses those terms in ways that are often diametrically opposed to their true definitions. Below are several examples:


As Aleh uses the term, it means isolation of children and adults with disabilities in large, closed institutions, permitting them contact with the outside world via visits and occasional outings. Here is an example of Aleh's use ad nauseum of the term "inclusion" in a report about its participation in the recent Jerusalem Marathon: 
 "Israel’s foremost network of care for children with severe complex disabilities, transformed the eighth annual Jerusalem Marathon into a celebration of disability inclusion and acceptance... ALEH was everywhere at once, spreading the message of inclusion..."
Real definition: 
"Inclusion of people with disabilities into everyday activities involves practices and policies designed to identify and remove barriers such as physical, communication, and attitudinal, that hamper individuals' ability to have full participation in society, the same as people without disabilities... Disability inclusion involves input from people with disabilities, generally through disability-focused and independent living organizations, in program or structural design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation." [Website of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
"Complex disabilities" 

As Aleh uses the term, it means disabilities beyond the mild to moderate - disabilities which rob a child of his right to live at home with family. Aleh often describes itself in this way: "Israel's foremost network of care for children and young adults with severe complex disabilities" [Example]

Real definition:
Children with complex difficulties may need a multiprofessional input. Members of the team can include a developmental paediatrician, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech and language therapist, psychologist, special needs teacher, social worker and liaison health visitor. [From the website]
"Adoption of a child with disabilities"

As Aleh uses the term, it means a donation of cash to Aleh enterprises linked to the name of a child residing in one of its institutions. For instance -
"Forge a special relationship of your own by “adopting” one of ALEH’s children and sponsoring the therapies that will help him or her grow and develop. Keep in touch and see the difference you are making via a progress report and pictures." [Page entitled "Adopt A Child" on the Aleh website]
Real definition: 
Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting of another, usually a child, from that person's biological or legal parent or parents, and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents. [Wikipedia]

As Aleh uses the term, it means staff at Aleh institutions caring for the resident children and adults in lieu of their real families. Aleh repeatedly refers to itself as the "Aleh family". For instance,  a staff member states on a video clip that is published on the Aleh website: 
"I joined this amazing Aleh family because I want to help them change attitudes toward the disabled" [Video via YouTube]
Real definition: 
A group of people who are related to each other, such as a mother, a father, and their children [Cambridge Dictionary]
As Aleh uses the term, it means Aleh's four large, closed institutions in Bnei Brak, Gedera, Jerusalem and a location in the Negev wherein reside a very large number of children and adults with disabilities:
Over 750 children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and medical conditions receive advanced medical, educational and rehabilitative care in ALEH’s four residential facilities. [The Aleh website's home page]
Here's how they're distributed (yes, I know the total below seems to be much less than the total above, but I am simply quoting them):
  • Jerusalem: "ALEH Jerusalem is much more than a facility.  It is a warm and loving home, founded on the belief that every individual is special and equally deserving of love, respect, and the opportunity to develop to full potential while enjoying true quality of life..." On the home page: "At a Glance: 80 residents". On this page, 82 (including "70 children and young adults")
  • Aleh Negev in Ofakim: "190 residents | Young adults-age 50, and highly dependent children" and (on the same page) "the facility is currently home to over 140 young people"
  • Gedera: "At Moriah, ALEH’s residential facility in Gedera, nearly 100 children and young people with complex disabilities receive the devoted, round-the-clock care they need to stay healthy and realize their potential" - and on the same page "10-30 years old | 109 residents"
  • Bnei Brak: "The Beit Yahalom housing facility is ALEH’s flagship and first and oldest department. It provides a warm, home environment for severely handicapped children, and provides all the care they need... 85 residents | Infants-45 years old"
Real definition:
The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. [Oxford Living Dictionaries]
Some readers of this post may be wondering what you can do to counter the impact of Aleh's high-powered PR machine. 

I'd like to suggest contributing to the installation of Jerusalem's first wheelchair-accessible playground swing. (It's in the video above.) Currently, not even one such swing exists in the entire city. My hope is that they will eventually be scattered throughout the city and the country, providing a fun, free activity to children with disabilities within the general community. 

Your donation will enable you to play an active role in educating Israelis about true inclusion, about living together with people who have disabilities. Not just visiting them in their closed institutions for photo ops.

A crowd-sourcing site for this project will soon be posted. Watch this space.

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