While Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month is coming to a close, the work of JDC’s Israel Unlimited — a partnership between JDC, the Ruderman Family Foundation, and the Government of Israel — continues at full speed, providing the opportunity for people with disabilities to live independently and lead rich fulfilling lives.
“We all have the same needs: to have a roof over our heads, to have meaningful relationships, to work with dignity, to educate ourselves, to live healthy lives, and to contribute to our society. People with disabilities are like all of us and our work with the Ruderman Family Foundation and the Israeli government ensures that people with disabilities can fulfill their promise and are fully included and contribute to Israeli society,” said Avital Sandler-Loeff, director of Israel Unlimited.
Touching the lives of thousands of Israelis with disabilities since it was established in December 2009, Israel Unlimited is today making inroads into communities still facing taboos around the needs of people with disabilities.
For Israel’s Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, it has been important to build programming for people with disabilities around cultural sensitivities. Working closely with rabbinic and community leadership, we have focused on independent housing as a viable option for people with disabilities in the cities with large Haredi populations, Bnei Brak and Petach Tikva. Recently, our efforts have come to fruition and a new Center for Independent Living (CIL) in B’nei Brak is being established. Leaders with disabilities from the community will offer peer-to-peer support, training workshops, and advocacy training run by and for people with disabilities. The result will be growing a new generation of leaders with disabilities who promote independent living and full inclusion in the Haredi community.
In higher education, we are making inroads towards inclusive campuses. This month Israel Unlimited is launching a program at three Israeli universities focusing on young adults with intellectual disabilities, autism, and severe learning disabilities who would likely not be admitted to an institute of higher learning. JDC’s “Being a Student” program creates new, on-campus learning opportunities for this population, while simultaneously striving for broader accessibility by changing negative attitudes around disabilities.
Highlighting the important notion that people with disabilities learn differently, lecturers and administrative faculty will also be on-boarded for this program to create an innovative path for people with disabilities on campus.
Throughout February, in an unprecedented effort to combat stereotypes negatively impacting Israelis with disabilities, Israel Unlimited joined hands with CTV, a mass media company, for the “Different People, Same Opportunities” campaign.
Displayed on 13 electronic billboards across Tel Aviv’s metropolitan area, short films like the one below will run throughout this month to recreate situations that people with disabilities in Israel typically encounter. The idea behind this innovative campaign is that while people may suffer from numerous disabilities, they want to be independent, contributing members of society—like all of us, they just need a friendly and welcoming society. CTV donated copywriting services and use of their electronic billboards.
As Israel moves forward to provide greater services, and a sense of inclusion for people with disabilities, Israel Unlimited is helping steer this effort in the right direction.