There are 133,400 disabled Israeli –- 48 percent of them with various types of physical disabilities, 25 percent with cognitive impairment and 15 percent with autism – and many of them have been having an especially hard time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thursday, December 3, is the International Day for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, thus it is an appropriate time to consider their special problems.
Ministry of Labor realizes these problems
For people with disabilities, it is not only difficult to compete with healthy individuals in finding jobs, but many of them are in high-risk groups; due to mobility and financial problems, a significant number do not own cars and have to take buses or trains, where the risk of being infected with Coronavirus is higher.
As a result, the lives of Israelis with disabilities have changed beyond recognition from the outbreak of the medical and economic crisis. The Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Affairs realizes these problems and has added NIS 140 million of its budget for the disabled since the pandemic began.
A rehabilitation hospital in Nazareth
For people with disabilities supervised by the Ministry of Labor and Welfare. At the same time, the ministry contacted a rehabilitation hospital in Nazareth for the hospitalization of patients with special needs
In the last three years, the ministry has been leading a move to integrate people with disabilities into the community, as part of which close to 1,000 people with disabilities have moved from housing to designated housing institutions in the community. This constitutes implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; research that accompanies the move indicates an increase in the quality of life of the people.
Transferring about 1,000 people from hostels to community housing
The ministry provided disabled patients who had been infected with Coronavirus with computers and tablets to allow them to keep in touch with their family and friends. It also expanded digital services for the blind population and established a dedicated technology center whose role is to assist the vision-impaired who need help in the digital field, for example by connecting to Zoom and using YouTube.
The ministry has also transferred about 1,000 people from hostels and dormitories to community housing in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The integration of disabled people in the community has been shown to have a positive effect on the diversity of the community fabric. But officials also know that these efforts are not enough.
Disabled people are first and foremost people with skills
“As a country, we have come a long way in making public space accessible – our mission is to make Israeli society aware of this need and more accessible, inclusive and egalitarian,” said Minister Itzik Shmuli, “and we are striving to increase their employment opportunities.”
Shmuli stressed that “disabled people are first and foremost people with skills and aspirations and only then people with disabilities. It is our choice whether to focus on the abilities or shortcomings of each person.”
56 percent of respondents reported feeling distressed
In a survey conducted among 1,500 people with disabilities that was aimed at better understanding of the challenges of the pandemic in this group and to tailor responses to their needs, 56 percent of respondents reported feeling distressed. When asked to answer in which areas they need help – exercising rights, providing support and assistance to family members, financial help, leisure and recreation, 92 percent answered that they need help with a significant variety of needs. Ministry officials said the results indicate the need for a diverse and flexible basket of services for them at this time. However, when asked in a focused way in which area they need the most assistance, 88 per cent answered that employment and leisure are the areas where they need the most assistance.
Almost 18,000 disabled people live in out-of-home that are run by the ministry, and since the outbreak of the corona crisis, they have been forced to cope with the danger of being infected and the need to be isolated. “We had to make adjustments to balance their social and family needs and the need to protect their health,” added Gidon Shalom, head of the ministry’s Disability Administrations.