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New program to tackle abuse, improve health among disabled
By RUTH EGLASH
02/01/2011
"The goal is to help people with disabilities analyze abusive situations and learn how to deal with them."
 
A new program aimed at empowering people with disabilities to protect themselves against physical and sexual abuse was launched Sunday by the year-old Israel Unlimited (Masad Nehuyot), which winds up its first year of activities to promote and strengthen independent living for some 700,000 disabled people between the ages of 21-65.

“The goal is to help people with disabilities analyze abusive situations and learn how to deal with them by being more assertive and giving them the tools to physically protect themselves,” says Tamara Barnea, head of Israel Unlimited and director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) Unit for Disabilities and Rehabilitation.

Self-defense classes and personal awareness techniques are all on the agenda for the initiative, she says, adding “Contrary to other programs that might focus on helping the professionals that work with the disabled, we aim to encourage and aid people with disabilities to live independently within the mainstream community in a secure and comfortable way.”

Run jointly by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, the JDC and the Ruderman Family Foundation, Israel Unlimited has already developed and approved eight large community projects for the disabled of more than $6 million.

According to Barnea, the programs developed this past year have promoted independent living services, addressed the needs of the disabled considered high risk – disabled immigrants, parents with disabilities, and victims of abuse – and helped the disabled who suffer from chronic illness.

Collectively, she says, they will likely reach some 20,000 people upon completion of the initial pilot phase, sometime next year.

As well as the program to encourage people with disabilities to be more aware of physical and sexual abuse – a problem that Barnea points out is particularly acute in the disabled community – Israel Unlimited also approved a program that will promote healthier living among the disabled.

Lowering blood pressure, losing weight, promoting better sleeping habits and social interaction in the mainstream community, as well as encouraging better physical fitness and nutritional care are all among the points that this initiative will focus on, she says.

“This program will be run together with the Health Ministry and will play a key role in the 2020 National Health initiative,” says Barnea, referring to a government program to improve people’s health and well-being over the next 10 years.

Israel Unlimited represents the first time a government ministry has partnered with a private international family foundation and an international charity to run welfare projects for segments of the Israeli population. The project involved a $2 m. investment from each of the parties and representatives from each are involved in the decision-making process, along with representatives from the disabled community.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced Sunday that families who have children with disabilities will be entitled to further reductions on their city taxes (arnona) this coming year, enjoying a 33 percent reduction – 8% more than in the past.

More than 26,000 families of children with disabilities will benefit, a spokeswoman from the ministry said.
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