Rower Moran Samuel.
(photo credit: KEREN ISAACSON AND DANIEL ROWING CENTER)
The Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Justice Ministry launched a campaign on Sunday to raise awareness of the lack of access to public spaces for people with disabilities.
The campaign presents the personal stories of three such people: Moran Samuel, a 2016 Paralympic Olympics medalist in rowing; visually impaired singer Moran Mazoz; and Shraga Weinberg, a Paralympic medalist in tennis.
Their stories reflect the dissonance between their personal successes and the challenges they face trying to participate equally in Israeli society.
“In life I row toward achievements and represent Israel in competitions around the world, but most of the beaches in Israel I can only see from afar,” Samuel says in the campaign.
There are some 1.4 million people with disabilities in Israel who require special access to public spaces, according to the commission.
The responsibility for providing accessible public spaces, whether in schools or other venues, falls on local authorities, according to the Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Law. Those authorities have until 2021 – some 10 years since specific accessibility regulations were instituted by virtue of that law – to bring their municipalities up to code.
Despite the extended period provided to achieve compliance, local authorities filed a petition with the High Court of Justice to block the commission from enforcing the law until sufficient funding is provided to complete the task.
“Accessibility is indeed a complex process that requires budgets, and for that reason a long time has been allocated to implement the law, but the significance of the request of the local authorities is the systematic exclusion of people with disabilities in public spaces,” said Commissioner for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Avrami Toram.
“Today we still see that even every day activities, seemingly simple, are not possible for people with disabilities – not because of their lack of ability but because of the inadequacy of the environment,” the commissioner said.