New regulations approved earlier this summer, but yet to be formally inaugurated by the government, could change the whole Israel experience for hundreds of tourists with disabilities.

According to Ahiya Kamara, head of the Commission for Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities, the new regulations are aimed at rental car agencies and bus companies that provide transport to tourists. Under the new arrangement, which will be implemented in stages over the coming years, transportation companies will be forced to ensure they have accessible and appropriate vehicles for wheelchair-bound individuals and others with disabilities.

Kamara said the goal was to address the fact that both locals and tourists with physical disabilities are today not able to rent a car at most outlets and are unable to travel in many rented buses or minibuses.

He said the move was another step towards “promoting accessibility and inclusion for all people in Israel with disabilities.” Last week, at the fifth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Israeli government formally ratified the convention that it signed in 2007.

The new transport regulations will allow people with disabilities set to visit Israel the chance to notify rental car agencies and bus companies five days in advance of their need for a specially equipped vehicle. The companies will then be obliged to supply such vehicles or come under investigation or eventual prosecution by the commission for not complying with the law. The rental costs of these vehicles must be the same as for individuals without disabilities.

Rental car agencies with fleets larger than 100 cars and all bus companies will have seven months from the time the government issues the notice to prepare their vehicles for people with disabilities.

The terms of the new arrangement were decided by a mixture of representatives from the commission, rental car agencies and bus companies, with input from people with disabilities.

Representatives of the commission estimate that all the necessary arrangements to provide vehicles for people with disabilities will be in place by 2014 at the latest.

“The commission will oversee the implementation of these regulations and see that they are enforced according to the law,” said Kamara, urging anyone who feels they have been discriminated against because of their disability to lodge a complaint with the commission.

“We ask that anyone experiencing discrimination related to people with disabilities contact the commission and we will take care of its appeal,” he said.

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