Access is key

Yuval Wagner aims to ‘continue promoting accessibility to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.’

A disabled person (illustrative) (photo credit: REUTERS)
A disabled person (illustrative)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Name: Yuval Wagner Age: 49 Profession: Active Military (Lieutenant-Colonel) and Chairman, Access IsraelPlace of Birth: Israel Current Residence: Hod Hasharon
What issue gets you out of bed in the morning?
The desire to continue promoting accessibility to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.
I believe there is a real need in Israeli society for accessibility, and I see that I can make a difference.
The good thing about promoting this is the ability to see the change happening right in front of your eyes. When Israel is more accessible, it can bring about a real difference in people’s quality of life.What issue keeps you up at night?
My to-do list is always extremely long. As far as I am concerned, sleep is overrated – every night I work until the middle of the night, in order to complete as many tasks on my list as possible. Time flies and I definitely have fun doing what I am doing.
Other than that, the scope of the change needed in order to achieve full accessibility and via that, full and true integration of people with disabilities into society. Sometimes it seems like the task is too big; we achieve one thing but understand the urgency to achieve more. On the other hand, every such achievement can make a real difference in someone’s life – that is the fuel that keeps me and my organization going.
What’s the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced thus far? Many years ago, Access Israel had problems raising money to continue its operations. This resulted in difficulties paying salaries to employees, firing the CEO and making a strategic and organizational change in keeping with the challenging times. Today I am happy to say that thanks to the help of our board of directors, we overcame the difficulties and are more aware. We learned our lesson so we will not find ourselves in this situation again.
How do you celebrate your achievements? I make it my business to bring together family, friends, board members and of course employees, and make sure they all know that without the great teamwork we have, and the hard work and professionalism we have become known for, we would not have achieved what we did.
If you were prime minister, what’s the first thing you would do? In addition to promoting peace in our region, I would do everything I could to diminish, or even if possible, avoid the increase in people with disabilities in Israel. In addition I would act, as I do today, to improve accessibility as a means to an end, where the end is full integration of people with disabilities into society and improving the quality of life. This means not only physical accessibility but also improving accessible service, educating our younger generation to acceptance, sensibility and inclusion, and basically changing the DNA of Israeli society so that people with disabilities become an integral part of society.
Which Israeli should have a movie made about him/her? I would make a documentary film about founders of nonprofit organizations – these are the best people in Israel and across the world.
What would you change about Israelis if you could? I would try to change the attitude – from blame and self-criticism to a more positive approach – with lack of jealousy, willingness to help others and looking at the cup as half full.
iPad, iPhone, Android or pen and paper? Everything. One has to be up-to-date in future technology, and technology and solutions used today and in the past. In our accessible service seminars, we always stress that technology has an important role in promoting accessibility. Sometimes the most accessible solution, for example for a hearing-impaired person, is a pen and paper – along with sensitivity and awareness, of course.
If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it say? Come to Israel, the place where you will meet the most incredible people in the world.
What is the most serious problem facing the country? Peace with our neighbors.
How can it be solved? Dialogue, getting to know the other side, trust and believing it is possible.
In 20 years, the country will be: I believe Israel can be a prospering country at peace with its neighbors, where people have a high quality of life. Israel has the potential of being the best place in the world to live, where people with all types of disabilities can live with dignity, as equals and with maximum independence.