'Smart Apartments' let Israel's disabled live independently

'Smart Apartments' initiative offers Israeli's disabled citizens new hopes for independent living.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Apartment interior (file)
Apartment interior (file)
Flash 90
In an initiative of Israel’s Ministry of Welfare, the Colel Chabad charitable organization has recently launched a new project to provide disabled adults with communal apartments specifically intended to address their individual handicaps and needs.

The first apartments, located next to the Grabski Rehabilitation Center in Migdal Haemek in the north of Israel, provide the residents with completely independent and private living spaces. The Center itself houses 40 residents between the ages of 18-50, all of whom suffer from varying handicaps in mobility and functioning.

The oldest and longest continuously running social services organization in Israel since 1788, Colel Chabad works in a variety of ways to help those in need through programs and initiatives that run throughout the year. The Grabski Center serves as a leader in therapies, treatment and care for those suffering from multiple sclerosis and other debilitating muscular diseases.

The facility houses the country’s first interactive technology music therapy room for their inpatients and boasts an impressive gardening and art program.

The apartment project is a result of an initiative by the Welfare Ministry to launch a pilot effort aimed at removing the disabled from institutional living settings, in favor of private apartments where they could benefit from a sense of true independence.

The Grabski Center, which has been in operation for close to ten years was identified as the ideal model to launch the program.

In advance of moving into the independent units, residents undergo life-skills training which take into account their occupational limitations in order to help them adjust to this new mode of living. The first six occupants of the two new apartments are current residents of the Center, while plans are already in place for new residents who had been living with family members.

The residents all have the option of choosing their daily schedules, decorating their apartments, preparing their own meals and laundry, as well as taking part in activities both in and out of the center.

Grabski Center Director Kobi Vizel said, "The objective of this pilot program, which is now developing into a successful initiative, is to display to our residents that their disabilities don’t need to completely preclude their ability to live in independence and with a sense of personal dignity.

"We are encouraged by the success of this effort and believe that it can serve as a model for facilities in other parts of the country - and even abroad - to restore a sense of normalcy to people forced to deal with very difficult daily challenges."

The apartment and rooms were designed to offer a high degree of "user friendliness." All units are "smart homes" with windows, doors and electric blinds all controlled by simple button functions to allow for maximum independence and functionality. The tenants are supported by staff on site at all times in order to assist them when needed.

"The goal is not simply for us to help but to discover ways that the beneficiaries truly need our help and respond to those needs," said Rabbi Sholom Duchman, International Director of Colel Chabad.

"When we first suggested the apartments to our residents, some of them refused," said Vizel. "They are used to the personal attention that are staff to resident ratio offered at the Grabski Center and were nervous that they wouldn’t get that same care if they moved over. But once the first occupants moved in and were able to experience a new level of independence, the interest from our other residents really grew."