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The AXIS integrated dance company of able-bodied and disabled dancers has got the moves – here at Lod’s Ganei Aviv community center.(Photo by: US EMBASSY)
US, Israeli experts meet to advance disability services
By LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI
02/08/2016
The Consortium has led over 30 leadership workshops in the US that have led to significant changes within the leadership of senior government officials.
An inclusive society is a better and stronger society, said Avital Sandler-Loeff, director of Israel Unlimited, ahead of a conference held in Ma’aleh Hahamisha, west of Jerusalem, on Monday promoting cutting- edge innovation in the field of disabilities.

Israel Unlimited, a partnership between the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the government and the Ruderman Family Foundation – in collaboration with the Ted Arison Family Foundation and the United States Embassy in Israel – brought a renowned delegation from the National Leadership Consortium at the University of Delaware to address a seminar tackling the most pressing issues in the field of disabilities today.

“We’re excited by the opportunity to bring together Israeli and American policy-makers, leaders with disabilities, and all of the other relevant stakeholders to learn about and implement significant change,” said Sandler-Loeff.

The consortium has led more than 30 leadership workshops in the US that have influenced senior government officials and leaders of nonprofit organizations and disabilities foundations.

Featured speakers included Steven Eidelman, the H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services Policy and Leadership at the University of Delaware; Prof. Nancy Weiss, director of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware; Lynne Seagle, executive director of Hope House Foundation; and Ari Ne’eman, president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

“It’s time to advance and adapt our system to focus on individuals with disabilities and tailor services to their needs.

Together, we can help the thousands of Israelis with disabilities to fulfill their dreams and fully and robustly participate in everyday life, including work, housing, education, leisure time, creating families, and fostering friendships,” said Sandler-Loeff.

Participants in the seminar engaged in workshops such as creating individualized plans for the disabled, personal budgeting, independent living, developing leadership roles in the field of disabilities, alternatives to guardianship, and addressing systemic changes in employment, relationships, recreation, and education.

The seminar aimed to highlight best practices from the US, which have enabled the country to improve its level of disability services, in an effort to do the same in Israel.

“The issue of housing in general, and for people with disabilities in particular, demands a major revolution here. The conference’s purpose is to promote the securing of resources and a revolution in the perception of someone with disabilities as worthy and entitled to live in the community,” said Shira Ruderman, Israel director of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

“Finding answers will also facilitate solutions for additional target populations, and generate a quality of life that enables real inclusion and a change in attitudes among the general public,” she added.

Today in Israel there are some 10,000 people with disabilities living in institutions.

Israel Unlimited aims to create services to allow people who want to leave these institutions or their parents’ homes to live independently within the community.

The one-day seminar is a part of a wider weeklong conference in which leading professionals will discuss up-to-date policies and services in the sector with Israeli officials and advocates – including housing and independent living solutions.
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