father carries disabled son.
(photo credit: Screenshot)
Close to half of the country’s disabled population was forced to forgo food,
medicine or heating over the past year due to financial
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According to a study by the National Commission for People
with Disabilities, which was released on Monday ahead of the International Day
of People with Disabilities to be marked worldwide on Friday, out of roughly 1.5
million Israelis who consider themselves disabled, 43 percent of those with
severe disabilities and 29% with moderate disabilities went without food at some
stage over the past year, while more than one-third of those with severe
disabilities and 23% with moderate disabilities had to miss out on essential
medication because they could not afford it.
In addition, 60% of people
with severe disabilities and nearly half of those with moderate disabilities
could not afford to turn on their heat last winter and 41% had their phone
disconnected in the past 12 months.
“The most disturbing issues raised in
this report relate to the economic difficulties faced by so many people with
disabilities,” Ahiya Kamara, the Justice Ministry’s commissioner for equal
rights of people with disabilities, told The Jerusalem Post
“We are talking about twice as many people giving up food and not
being able to afford heating as those in the non-disabled population,” continued
Kamara. “It is not always obvious that poverty and disabilities must be linked
to each other.”
Kamara said the key to the problem was integrating people
with disabilities in the workforce. He called on the government to take on the
issue, much as it has done with encouraging members of the haredi and Arab
populations to join the workforce.
“It is clear that many people with
disabilities do not go out to work and therefore cannot support themselves in a
respectable way,” he said. “It should be taken on as a national challenge and
they should be given incentives to go out to work.”
Some steps have
already been taken, said Kamara, including allowing those on state benefits to
continue receiving welfare while working at low-paying jobs and the formation
this year of a National Council for the Rights of People with Disabilities in
the Workplace headed by Ra’anan Dinur, a former director-general of the Prime
In addition to government efforts, Kamara said it was
also about changing perceptions and raising awareness in the private sector to
the benefits of employing someone who has a disability.
“Hiring some with
disabilities should not be seen as a charitable act, they are not doing them a
favor,” he said.
“We are talking about people with real talent. Sure they
all have good and bad points like other people, but there is no reason not to
Kamara said the challenge also lay in accessibility for
people with disabilities, especially to places of work and to public
On Tuesday, the Knesset Committee for the Public Petitions
will discuss accessibility for the disabled to public transport, as part of a
day of activities surrounding the issue in the Knesset.
Commission for People with Disabilities’s report also noted that the vast
majority of people with disabilities relied heavily on public transport, with
69% using buses or trains regularly.
More than half of those (39% of the
total) said they took public transport at least twice a week.
presented by the commission show that roughly 1.5 million people in Israel have
suffered a chronic illness or disability for longer than six months, with
721,000 of them being of working age, 457,000 elderly, and 314,000 under the age
of 17. Out of those who are working age, 293,000 are considered severely
disabled and 491,000 moderately disabled.
Additional statistics released
by the National Insurance Institute on Monday showed that 300,000 people
collected disability allowance in the past year – 28,500 of them were children
and 4,172 were victims of terrorism.
A month ago, hundreds of people with
disabilities took part in a demonstration outside the Ministries of Finance and
Welfare in Jerusalem, demanding that disability allowances be increased to the
level of the minimum wage. While no resolution was found, they were placated
with promises from the government that it would look into the matter.
Monday, Meretz MK Ilan Gilon announced that he would spearhead the fight to
increase disability allowances to at least 40% of the average wage, or NIS 3,440
“Israel’s disabled population has been increasingly marginalized
in recent years and is now one of the weakest segments of society,” Gilon said.
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