Bus stop in Israel (illustrative)
Bus stop in Israel (illustrative) iStock

The new budget passed in the Knesset on Monday allocated for an unprecedented amount of funds to provide intercity buses which are accessible to people with disabilities.

The new budget will finance ten intercity bus lines with 60 accessible buses.

To date, intercity buses in Israel are not accessible to those who rely on a wheelchair, making this new development a game-changer for people with disabilities.

This step toward equality is largely thanks to new MK Shirly Pinto (Yamina), who herself is deaf and who is a dedicated advocate for people with disabilities.

Commending the move, Pinto said, “After three years of chaos, Israel will finally have a bus system that will accommodate those with disabilities. Ten lines will serve a wide swath of the public and is an unprecedented step in disability accessibility for Israel’s public transportation. There is still a long road ahead, but the revolution has begun.”

Pinto is a former employee of the Ruderman Family Foundation and an alumnus of the Foundation’s Link20 Network, a global social movement led by a network of young advocates with and without disabilities. Through social media platforms, the Network aims to change the public discourse around people with disabilities and advocate for making a more inclusive world for all. The program, which was the brainchild of the Foundation, is now operated by the Israel Volunteer Council with support from The Gandyr Foundation and The Ted Arison Family Foundation.

Jay Ruderman, President of The Ruderman Family Foundation, commented, “I’m proud of the tremendous achievement of the Link20 Network and its alum MK Shirley Pinto. When we launched Link20 we dreamed that young people with and without disabilities would work toward a common goal of a more inclusive society.”

The program has advocated for disability rights in public transportation for the past three years. Program activists echoed the findings revealed in a Ruderman Foundation report drafted in consultation with the public transportation expert Gil Yaakov. That report presented the lack of accessible public transportation for people with disabilities as one of their main obstacles to living a mobile and independent life.

To that end, in 2019, Link20 came out with a report called “Moving and Equal” which highlighted the influence local authorities have regarding making public transport more accessible. Together with that report, Link20 and the Foundation also released a digital series called “The Race for Equality” where three couples with disabilities attempted to get to the Knesset from Tel Aviv via public transport. Pinto was instrumental in providing the research needed to make the video possible and it became a viral sensation yielding two million views and resulting in 10,000 people signing a petition calling for a more inclusive public transport system.

“The ‘Moving and Equal’ report demonstrated the extent to which accessibility on public transport can impact people with disabilities in key areas of their lives,” Ruderman added. “We firmly believe that change will only come about if people with disabilities lead the movement, and we hope this is one of the many examples of people with disabilities successfully advocating for themselves.”

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