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Justice minister signs law for handicap access

February 20, 2013 04:00

Theaters, museums, hotels, restaurants, fitting rooms among facilities that must enable service safely and respectfully.

Handicapped women in Jaffa

Handicapped women 370. (photo credit:Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman signed on Tuesday a law that aims to facilitate the use of public services by disabled persons.

The bill, which will take effect in six months, was approved by the 18th Knesset in December after the Commission for Equal Rights of People with Disabilities pushed the idea forward.

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The law applies to service providers such as courthouses, theaters, museums, galleries, libraries, hotels, restaurants, gyms, pools and even fitting rooms in clothing stores.

Any entity that provides a public service will have to offer access to people with disabilities in a way that allows them to receive the service independently, safely and respectfully.

The service provider will be required to buy systems providing additional help for people with various types of disabilities. In addition, the person receiving the service can demand to receive it in an accessible way according to his personal needs.

For example, eligible people can ask to receive their monthly bills in enlarged print, in Braille or recorded on a tape.

According to the Knesset decision in December, persons presenting a valid disability certificate shall not be required to wait in line for services such as at banks, social security funds or supermarkets.

In addition, no entry fee will be charged for individuals accompanying a person with disabilities in public places, and guided tours in some places will be accompanied by personal wireless hearing aid systems.

Furthermore, leisure locations such as bars and pubs will be required to provide tables and/or adapted seating for people who need them.

Objects such as electrical cables, flower pots and chairs shall not be placed in aisles accessible to the handicapped, which must be kept free of obstructions.

In places where public announcements are voiced, an SMS message will be sent to the phones of deaf or hard of hearing people.

The rule also applies to houses of worship, where at least 10 percent of the prayer books distributed must be printed in large font, and to hotel rooms, in which bedside furniture must be easily movable.

Ahiya Kamara, the commissioner for equal rights for persons with disabilities, who had called the Knesset decision a “milestone in the revolution for accessibility in Israel,” said on Tuesday that the justice minister’s signature on the law revolutionizes the field of accessibility in the country.

The law “enables people with disabilities, whether they are limited mentally, emotionally, sensorially or physically, to enjoy full participation in society without being dependent on others,” he said.
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