President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin yesterday, Monday 28 July 2019 / 25 Tammuz, hosted representatives of Accessibility Israel to mark the 20th anniversary of its establishment. Accessibility Israel works to change the perception of the public space and improve accessibility for people with disabilities. The president received a report summarizing 20 years the organization’s activities. Founder and president Yuval Wagner, and CEO Michal Rimon spoke at the event, which concluded with Orel Palomba singing the song ‘Ani VeAta / You and I’, accompanied by sign language and realizing her dream of singing at Beit HaNasi. She even received a presidential escort, as the president walked her, hand in hand, from her seat to where she sang for the people in the hall.
The meeting was the closing of a circle for the founder of the association, Yuval, who was injured in the course of his service as an Air Force pilot and wrote a letter to then-President Ezer Weizman explaining how difficult it was to move about in public spaces. 20 years ago, he was invited by Beit HaNasi to establish Accessibility Israel. Yuval, an Israeli Air Force pilot was injured in the course of his service in 1987, and remains paralyzed from the neck down and is a wheelchair user.
In preparation for the meeting, attended by guests with various disabilities, the Beit Hanassi security department underwent training with Accessibility Israel with the aim of adapting security checks and assistance for visitors with disabilities.
The resident opened the meeting by expressing his deep appreciation for Accessibility Israel and its founders, who made the vision of accessibility in Israel a basic and fundamental social duty. He spoke about how, when he was an MK, he met MK Ilan Gilon, who in one of his speeches coined the phrase ‘a society that does not care those who need help is unworthy of being called a society.’
"I was deeply impressed by his words, and since then quote this statement often," said the president, adding, "It is our duty to make an effort and to take care of all those who have physical or other disabilities. Accessibility should be taken for granted. It is not enough to legislate regarding accessibility, there must be regulations that are enforced.”
Yuval Wagner, founder, and president of the organization thanked the president and said, "It is unbelievable how a letter to the president created 20 years of activity to promote accessibility for people with disabilities. It is nothing less than a revolution. From a country that was absolutely not accessible – not physically, not socially and not in terms of services, to a state with legislated equality of rights and accessibility. 20 years on, Israel is much more accessible and allows those with disabilities to live better despite their limitations.”
Photo credit: Mark Neiman, GPO