Eli Yishai Stonewalling on Implementing Accessibility Bill

Knesset sources estimate the various authorities will need a total of hundreds of millions of shekels in addition to their own expenses to make their facilities compliant.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai has delayed for half a year the implementation of regulations obliging local authorities to make public institutions handicapped-accessible.

A parliamentary committee on rights for the disabled belatedly issued the regulations last July, following legislation passed in 2006. But Yishai, whose signature is required to implement the regulations, refuses to sign them, insisting that poor local authorities be exempted from the regulations.

MK Ilan Ghilon, chairman of the sub-committee that formulated the regulations, slammed Yishai for his attitude.

“It’s absurd that the poorer places, where most disabled people live, won’t have to provide accessibility,” he said.

“Yishai, who pretends to care about social issues, wants disabled people living in the periphery to be screwed over threefold − once for their disability, again for living in poor communities and yet again because Yishai thinks their council or municipality doesn’t have to be accessible to them.”

An Interior Ministry official defended the delay yesterday, saying poorer localities can’t afford to comply with the new directives.

“The heads of these communities will become law-breakers [if the regulations are validated] and could be criminally liable if someone complains against them to the police,” the official said.

Knesset sources estimated yesterday the various authorities will need a total of hundreds of millions of shekels in addition to their own expenses to make their facilities compliant.

Yishai recently asked the Finance Ministry for a national accessibility survey mapping the accessibility requirements in all local authorities, to see how weaker authorities could make their institutions accessible in more moderate steps.

However the survey has not been approved yet and meanwhile all local authorities, including those who can afford it, are not required to make their buildings accessible to the disabled.

The current law requires only new buildings to be accessible for disabled people. The new regulations would force local authorities to retrofit old buildings.

The regulations stipulate that government ministries and authorities nationwide must complete making their offices and facilities accessible by 2018, and local authorities must do so by 2021.

The ministry will require several authorities, including Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Haifa, Givatayim, Kfar Sava and Ra’anana, to start making their offices accessible right away. Some 170 other authorities, including Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Safed, Kiryat Shmona and Dimona, will not be required to make their offices accessible in the next seven years.

Yishai’s spokesman said the minister wants 80 economically sound authorities to make their offices accessible immediately, As for the others he wants a national survey indicating how to make public buildings accessible gradually.