Access Israel

THE ACCESSIBILITY REVOLUTION

People with disabilities in Israel are confronted with innumerable obstacles on a daily basis, but thanks to Access Israel, awareness has grown among the general public and decision makers, and new laws passed by the Knesset now require all businesses, public buildings and services to become accessible

Access Israel was founded in 1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Yuval Wagner, an Israeli Air Force combat pilot who became a quadriplegic following a helicopter accident. Wagner learned the hard way that using a wheelchair in Israel was synonymous with being sentenced to house arrest. It was simply impossible to find accessible stores, restaurants, government offices, or even playgrounds to enjoy with his children.
Wagner established Access Israel with the goal of enabling people with disabilities to lead normal lives. Although much progress has been made, there is still a long road ahead before Israel can be compared to North America, Canada, Australia or some EU countries in this respect.

New law marks a new era
We are currently at a historical milestone, asserts Wagner. When we started out 14 years ago, there werent any laws pertaining to accessibility, but 2013 marks the beginning of a revolution for us. It is a new era in that public places and services must now conform to the new accessibility law or else face the consequences.
According to the newly passed law, all public institutions and businesses must complete the process by November 2017, while government offices have until 2018 and municipal buildings until 2020. The problem is that the government did not publicize the new law, explains Wagner, so we have taken it upon ourselves to make businesses and institutions aware of the fact that they must now make changes to their facilities in order to comply with the law.
In addition to a general lack of awareness about the existence of the law, there is little public information about what exactly must be done to qualify as accessible. Once again, Access Israel has stepped in to provide essential consulting services, mainly to large organizations and companies, assisting them with the process of transforming themselves into handicap-friendly environments.

Raising awareness
Since it was established, one of Access Israels principal objectives has been to ensure that decision makers such as ministers, mayors and CEOs are aware of the challenges faced daily by hundreds of thousands of disabled Israelis. They frequently dont realize that their companies are losing potential customers simply because they do not have access to their businesses. From a purely economic perspective, it is in their best interest to make sure that their premises, services and products are accessible to wheelchair users, blind people, the hearing impaired and other disabled citizens.
Access Israel is a one-stop organization helping Israeli businesses, municipalities and ministries to implement accessibility. By doing so, Access Israel improves the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families in Israel.
In order to raise awareness of what it means to live with disabilities, Access Israel conducts special workshops in schools and businesses throughout Israel, and has also launched media campaigns to raise awareness.In addition, the organization has opened an Accessibility Studies Center, which offers classes to people who want or need to learn about accessibility, such as architects, municipal workers and corporate representatives.

Excellent source of information
Of all the remarkable projects that Access Israel has undertaken, the feather in its cap is certainly its outstanding website, www.aisrael.org. In addition to containing a plethora of useful material about Access Israels numerous activities, the website provides invaluable information for disabled people. If youre looking for an accessible bank or supermarket in your neighborhood, or planning a trip to Jerusalem and need to find a wheelchair-accessible hotel room, this information and much more is available at the click of a mouse. There is also an excellent English-language site that provides information about accessibility to tourists visiting Israel.
Despite the fact that Access Israel plays a vital role in improving the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of disabled Israelis and their families, the organization does not receive support from the government and relies on the generosity of donors to continue its important endeavors.

To help promote accessibility in Israel: www.aisrael.org, +972-9-7451126 or contact Yuval Wagner at yuval@aisrael.org.

Yuval Wagner with his dog in an accessible park