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Video: Israel Makes Sure Handicapped Can Use Parks

The handicapped have increasing accessibility to public parks in Israel. Video: Sesame Street’s Sivan plays with Anastasia
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 10/23/2011, 9:48 AM

The handicapped have increasing accessibility to public parks in Israel. Video: Sesame Street’s Sivan plays with Anastasia.

Recent projects, such as Friendship Park in Raanana near Tel Aviv, make the parks available for the blind as well as for those in wheelchairs.

The nine-acre Friendship Park opened in 2005 and was the first accessible integrated park for children in Israel. Beit Issie Shapiro, an organization that develops and provides services for Israelis with developmental disabilities, helped plan the park, which offers play equipment designed for children in wheelchairs and with hearing and vision impairments.

The pathways, surface materials and height of the base underneath each plaything were all taken into account.

Accommodations were even made for motor-disabled parents or grandparents accompanying able-bodied children at the park, according to occupational therapist Michele Shapiro, a specialist in sensory design at Beit Issie Shapiro. "I was responsible for leading the design team, but the physical and social part of the park go together strongly, and both are essential to the success of the park," says Shapiro.

The park has served as a model for newer ones in Be’er Sheva in the Negev, Kfar Saba, which is adjacent to Raanana, Afula, near the Jordan Valley cities of Tiberias and Beit Shean, and Karmiel in the western Galilee.

A Sensory Park is being planned in Haifa.

Ecuador's wheelchair-bound vice president Lenin Moreno Garces visited Friendship Park this past July and was so impressed that he asked Beit Issie Shapiro to help plan some 200 accessible and inclusive parks throughout Ecuador.

Approximately 60 special-access picnic areas also are available throughout Israel, with at least two parking places fore the handicapped and an accessible path to an area with at least two tables specially designed for wheelchair users.

The handicapped also are able to access the archeological park at Shimshit Forest, where a trail has been paved, the Hula Lake Bird Observatory. The Ben Shemen Forest, the largest park in Israel, has a section especially adapted for the visually impaired.

In late August, the government approved a plan to establish a horseback riding and bicycle sports park in the Lower Galilee that will include activities for the special-needs population.