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      New US, Israel Project on Self-Advocacy for Disabled

      The US State Department is sponsoring a joint project with Israel around self-advocacy for those with intellectual disabilities.
      By Hana Levi Julian, MSW, LCSW-R
      First Publish: 6/10/2013, 4:33 PM

      Jerusalem scene, but not always accessible to all
      Jerusalem scene, but not always accessible to all
      Flash 90

      The US State Department is sponsoring a joint project with Ono Academic College and the Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities around the issue of self-advocacy for those with intellectual disabilities.

      The new program is an international exchange project called the "Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities Professional Exchange Program" (EPIC).

      The goal of the project is to develop the infrastructure for a self-advocacy movement in Israel, to be supported primarily by B’zchut as a human rights organization, and Ono Academic College as the academic institution.

      The initiative is to be funded by the State Department’s MIUSA (Mobility International USA).

      "The MIUSA project gives us the opportunity to benefit from the experience of organizations in the U.S. in this area," explained Dr. Shira Yalon-Chamovitz, head of the Occupational Therapy Department at the college’s Faculty of Health Professions.

      Yalon-Chamovitz is also spearheading efforts in Israel to develop a protocol of language simplification to enhance accessibility for the disabled population.

      "Through this movement, persons with intellectual disabilities can be treated as equals and have the same choices, rights, responsibilities and chances to speak up for themselves," she said.

      "An initiative of this kind has the potential to impact on many areas of life in the long term, changing the way in which persons with intellectual disabilities are perceived, related to and included in every element of society."

      There are many areas of life in the Jewish State in which disabilities access has not yet begun to be considered important, let alone a legal right, both physically and in the employment sector.

      One example can be found when an average person finds himself temporarily in a wheelchair due to an injury, and discovers he is cut off from most of his basic daily activities, simply because the curbs on the street often have no accessibility ramps to the sidewalks -- preventing those in wheelchairs from accessing crosswalks to cross the streets.