As the rockets continue to rain down on Israeli communities, many people with disabilities are facing an increasingly difficult situation.
There are some 1 million people with disabilities living outside of institutional frameworks in the country, of whom some 70,000 live in the South.
With a warning of merely 15 seconds in some situations, there is often not enough time to reach a protected area, especially in the case of disabled populations, leading many to remain confined to their homes or to bomb shelters.
Israel Unlimited, a partnership with the Israel Joint Distribution Committee, the government and the Ruderman Family Foundation, has developed social services assisting this population in the South.
“In these times of emergency, every citizen finds himself in some state of uncertainty regarding security. Among people with disabilities, the situation is complex and there is a higher uncertainty,” said Avital Sandler- Loeff, director of JDC – Israel Unlimited.
The services developed by Israel Unlimited to assist the disabled during their normal routines are now being used to address the needs in emergency situations, Sandler-Loeff said.
The partnership launched “Security Network” (“Reshet Bitachon”) in cooperation with the Health Ministry and Makshivim Net (“Listening Net”), for people with emotional frailties. The service includes virtual social chats, social gatherings, a dedicated website and application providing information in dealing with emergency situations, and psychological first-aid support by professionals.
The service is free of charge and accessible to people with disabilities through the website www.bitaconet.co.il.
The Center for Independent Living in Beersheba has been operating in emergency mode with an increased number of volunteers with and without disabilities. The volunteers provide an initial response to the disabled who are housebound during this time of conflict.
The center operates as part of a network of independent living centers around the country and is operated by people with disabilities for people with disabilities.
“During these times where every citizen can see their personal needs and the needs of society as a whole, we feel it is necessary to focus on people with disabilities in Israel, to ensure that their needs are met and they receive proper support and assistance. It is especially in these moments that the quality of a society is measured,” said Shira Ruderman, Israel director of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
JDC – Israel Unlimited in cooperation with IDF Home Front Command and the division for people with mental disabilities in the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, has developed signs and instructions for people with cognitive disabilities, through a process of linguistic simplification of emergency procedures.
The simplified instructions can be found at www.oref.org.il/Sip_Storage/ FILES/8/2648.pdf.
In addition, JDC – Israel Unlimited has promoted training for professionals and rescue forces. The organization recently completed a workshop for representatives of the Home Front Command in cooperation with the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel to simulate complex conditions and providing life-saving aid in emergency situations to people with disabilities.
Bekol – Organization of Hard of Hearing People in Israel has been working closely with Home Front Command addressing the many requests of the hearing impaired – totaling some 800,000 people throughout the country.
There have been many reports of malfunctions among special beepers for the hard of hearing and the deaf, Bekol said on Thursday.
“We warned about this problem when there were exercises and now in real time everyone is complaining that there are malfunctions,” the NGO said. “However, we are cooperating with HFC [Home Front Command] and we are doing everything possible to help people with difficulties in hearing to deal with the situation.”
Bekol’s hotline for the hearing impaired and their families is available to people throughout the country to address problems during the conflict. The organization is offering information and services regarding the inability to hear sirens, the distribution of beepers, repair and replacement of damaged hearing aids, supplying hearing aid batteries, supplying warning systems for the deaf, and evacuation from areas of conflict. The hotline is available at (03) 525-7001.
AKIM – The National Association for the Habilitation of the Intellectually Disabled expanded its Parents for Parents hotline to provide assistance to families of the mentally disabled. The hotline will operate Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 1-800-399-333.
The Ra’anana-based Beit Issie Shapiro launched a hotline to provide emotional support for people with disabilities and their families. The hotline is being manned by Beit Issie Shapiro’s expert psychologists and social workers at its Lubner Family Therapy Center, offering guidance on overcoming emotional stress during this difficult time. Members of the public who have a family member with a disability may call 077-899-4333 between 8 a.m. and midnight.
“Getting to a bomb shelter in 15-90 seconds is an almost impossible task for someone who uses a wheelchair, or who has autism and can’t stand the noise of the sirens,” said Benjy Maor, director of International Resource Development. “We invite all families dealing with disability to contact us.”