Hearing impaired call for increased gov't services
Welfare and Social Services Ministry re-approves budget following public protest against cuts to services for the deaf, hard of hearing.
Rally for deaf, hard of hearing in Tel Aviv. Photo: DANIELLE ZIRI
Over 50 deaf and hard-of-hearing Israelis gathered in front of government offices
in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning to demand increased funding for services for the
The demonstration had originally been planned in order to protest
the government’s intention to reduce the amount of available sign language
translation services due to budget cuts. However, an hour before the event,
officials announced they will not implement the reduction and that NIS 2 million
has been allocated to these services.
“We decided to hold the rally
anyway and not cancel it,” said Yael Kakon, director of the Institute for the
Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel. “Our budget is still very limited and we
find ourselves fighting for basic things everyday.”
Kakon explained that
because of the upcoming election, the deaf in Israel remain in the dark about
their budget for the upcoming year.
“Eight-thousand deaf and
hard-of-hearing individuals can’t live their lives fully and be independent
without translation services. This is not okay, especially not in a country that
just passed a major accessibility law earlier this month,” she
Participants from all over the country made much noise with
whistles and vuvuzelas, and held signs saying: “Can someone hear me?” and
“Translators are our eyes and ears,” as well as posters calling for
“This is the world of the hearing. It’s a world that
expects us to adapt ourselves to it,” one of the organizers of the rally, Golan
Zino, told the crowd in sign language.
“Everything is based on the
assumption that everyone can hear. It’s the world of The Voice and Kochav
Nolad,” he added.
Zino was born deaf to a deaf family and said he has
never seen his difference as a disability: “To me it’s just a different culture,
a different language,” he told The Jerusalem Post via a translator.
feel that I can do anything the hearing do,” he continued. “I am a citizen of
Israel. I want to be part of society, to contribute to it, with my own language.
I want to be able to understand what my banker, my doctor or my kids’ teachers
say – and for that I need a translator.”
Today, deaf people in Israel are
allowed 45 hours a year of translation services, an amount that participants
described as very minimal.
“The government doesn’t recognize sign
language as a language,” Zino noted. “I feel that because of that, I have been
robbed of the right to contribute to society. They are basically telling me that
I’m not valuable to them.”
Rabbi Shai Piron of the Yesh Atid party, who
was present on Sunday morning, said that the “rapacious policies of the
government cause severe damages to the deaf community.”
of people with disabilities in Israel has just been recognized as a legal duty,
but unfortunately the Israeli government ignores its own laws and hurts the the
citizens it promised to protect,” he added.
“Their right to an
independent life and to interacting with their environment is unquestionable and
the government must allocate an appropriate budget to this purpose.”