Israeli disabled peoples' NGO invited to speak at European conference

The conference addressed the coronavirus vaccine's accessibility in many European countries, highlighting the challenge of providing the vaccine to people with disabilities and their caregivers.

A CHILD plays in the sensory therapy room at Beit Issie Shapiro.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
A CHILD plays in the sensory therapy room at Beit Issie Shapiro.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israeli NGO Beit Issie Shapiro that focuses on promoting the equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities was invited to speak at a recent European conference addressing the COVID-19 vaccine for people with disabilities and their caregivers.
The international virtual conference was hosted by the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), an umbrella organization "that represents over 15,000 support services for people with disabilities across Europe," according to the association's official website. 
The conference addressed the coronavirus vaccine's accessibility in many European countries, highlighting the challenge of providing the vaccine to people with disabilities and their caregivers, who often face travel limitations or other restrictions that may affect their chances of receiving the vaccine.
This is where the Israeli perspective may come in handy, considering the fact that Israel is currently considered a global pioneer in administering the vaccine effectively and broadly.
While that might have been a significant consideration in inviting an Israeli NGO to participate in the important conference, Beit Issie Shapiro stands out as a notable player in creating equal opportunities for people with disabilities regardless of Israel's successful vaccine rollout model. 
The NGO impacts the daily lives of over 500,000 people every year and creates platforms that empower people with disabilities and provide them with the tools they need to advocate for themselves and create real change in their lives. 
Through the organization's Leadership Center, made up of over 100 participants with varying levels of disability across Israel, the organization manages to reach law-makers and affect policies while promoting people with disabilities to leadership roles and slowly cracking the glass ceiling that many of them still face. 
During the coronavirus pandemic, the center's Health Forum, made up of 22 participants - advocated for the rights of people with disabilities in coronavirus-related issues. These included promoting accessibility of hospital units and COVID-19 testing sites, assisting in developing Israel's model for prioritizing at-risk groups for the vaccine rollout and finding new and creative ways of making the process of being vaccinated completely accessible for people with disabilities.
“Coronavirus presented many challenges for all people across the globe and in particular for people with disabilities," Dr. Einat Peri from Beit Issie Shapiro’s Health Forum said during the conference. "I am grateful to have had the opportunity as a member of the Health Forum to share what we are doing here in Israel with people from around the world," she added. 
Director of Beit Issie Shapiro Ahmir Lerner thanked the EASPD for inviting the organization to speak "at this important webinar," adding that the organization is proud to do its part "in sharing knowledge to improve the lives of people with disabilities and impact societies across the globe."  
In the chaos that has characterized Israel’s education system during the coronavirus crisis, children with special needs have suffered more than those who are part of the regular education network. Any long-term cessation in their therapy causes regression.
Beit Issie Shapiro refused to allow that to happen to the youngsters in its care and continued to function as usual.
This did not go unnoticed by President Reuven Rivlin, who visited the organization's center in Ra’anana last month and met with therapists, teachers and students, seeing first-hand how ongoing educational activities are organized.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.