New Regulations Put Handicapped Access Front and Center
The Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee on Tuesday approved a wide range of new regulations that are designed to make access to public institutions and areas in Israel far easier for handicapped individuals. In addition, institutions, including government offices, banks, health clinics, supermarkets, and many other publicly accessible places will have to adjust the way they provide services to accommodate the handicapped, including serving them in separate lines, without forcing them to wait for service like others.
The new regulations affect a wide range of businesses. For example, pubs and restaurants will be required to provide tables or seats that can accommodate the handicapped. In places where announcements are made by voice – such as when a number is called for service at a repair center or bank – the organization will be required to send a text message to individuals who are hard of hearing. And aid workers accompanying handicapped individuals at museums, theaters, and other places of entertainment, will be allowed to enter for free.
The regulations also affect synagogues ritual baths (mikva'ot). Synagogues will have to remove cables or other items that could prevent a wheelchair from being pushed along a floor, and at least 10% of prayer books will have to be large print. In ritual baths, special platforms that will allow disabled women to use the facility will need to be built as well.
The new rules will be implemented gradually between 2014 and 2018. Businesses that believe they will be unable to reasonably make the changes will be able to apply for an exemption.
MK Ilan Gilaon (Meretz), Chairmn of the Knesset Subcommittee on rights for the disabled, with authored the regulations, said that the decisions made were “historic. We have done created a system that will enable individuals to reach their goals with dignity. I am hoping that our regulations will also be enacted into specific laws in the coming years.”
MK Uri Maklev (UTJ) congratulated the Subcommittee for its work, but said that several of the regulations – such as those affecting ritual baths – would need to be examined more closely, because of the generally small space and budgets allocated to them.