Disability Access Required in All Israel Public Spaces Over Next 5 Years

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

All public places in Israel must be accessible to people with disabilities within the next five years, according to regulations approved yesterday by the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee.

Accessibility will have to be provided everywhere from libraries, museums, movie theaters, bed and breakfast accommodations, dressing rooms in clothing stores and at automatic food dispensers.

MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz ), the chairman of the subcommittee in charge of the application of the regulations, said at yesterday's committee meeting: "We made history ... to allow a person to reach his destination with dignity and independence. Now we must inculcate the law, because the language of the law itself is not enough."

Ahiya Kamara, head of the Commission for Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities, called the passing of the regulations "a real revolution that promises a better future for us and our children."

The regulations, which go into effect in six months and must all be carried out by 2018, address "access" of various kinds. For example, the needs of hearing-impaired customers at movie theaters also are taken into account: "If a film is distributed in an official language for the purpose of screening in a commercial movie theater, the distributor and the provider of the screening service will be responsible, together and separately, to provide subtitles in the language of the film in at least 70 percent of the copies of the film distributed for screening."

The regulations also state that a person who presents identification indicating that they have a disability will be exempt from standing in line at banks, supermarkets and other such places. In places of prayer, at least 10 percent of prayer books must have enlarged print. Pubs must provide wheelchair-accessible tables.

Appropriate aid must be provided for people with disabilities even when they are questioned by police, "unless the aid or service required is unavailable after a reasonable effort or the person must be questioned immediately" to prevent obstruction of justice or the investigation, or to prevent danger to human life.

The regulations have now been handed over to the Justice Ministry for formulation and will then be sent to the finance minister for final approval, at which point they become binding. However, an application may be made to the Commission for Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities for an exemption from the regulations for economic reasons.

A handicapped Israeli woman.Credit: Eyal Warshavski