Finance, health ministers to implement 2008 law requiring handicap access to health facilities

Clinics are encouraged to provide handicap accessibility; additional regulations are yet to be approved.

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July 23, 2013 04:52
1 minute read.
Handicapped women in Jaffa

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

Wheelchair-bound patients are usually examined by a doctor on the ground floor of health clinics – superseding the need to provide handicap accessibility – but this option is gradually disappearing. Only in November 2018 will health facilities be bound by law and regulations to make all places accessible – including to the blind, deaf and physically impaired.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Health Minister Yael German approved guidelines to make health services accessible. The law – passed in 2008 – included specific guidelines to implement accessibility.

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Orli Boni, the chief occupational therapist of the Health Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post that even before the law was passed, health facilities were encouraged to start making changes in health fund clinics, hospitals and other facilities so the disabled could receive the health services. The lag time in implementation came because each guideline is debated in the Knesset by committees.

Institutions opposed to the guidelines cite the high cost of retrofitting buildings or construction of new ones.

Even though two ministers approved the regulations, there remain more regulations that have yet to be approved, Boni said. Approved guidelines include parking areas for the disabled, signs, steps and ramps, auditory warnings, acoustics and braille. Making health services accessible to the disabled reduces the gap in healthcare, she said.

Boni said that voluntary organizations representing people with varying disabilities have been partners from the start in pointing out problems and making suggestions.

So far, 100 “accessibility officers” have been appointed (an additional task to their regular jobs) in health funds, hospitals, district health offices and other facilities. Boni said there have been eight full-day training sessions for officers and that their assignment is to facilitate changes to make premises accessible to the disabled.

“There are still problems in implementing the 2008 law; money is being allocated by the institutions only gradually, and we are doing surveys of facilities’ accessibility,” she said.

The cost of making all facilities accessible was once estimated at NIS 200 million, said Boni, but in the end it will probably turn out to be much more.

People are encouraged to send complaints or report inaccessible areas by email to orly.boni@moh.health.gov.il


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