(Courtesy of Shalva) “There are people who earn their place in the world-to-come in a single hour, with one act,” Kalman Samuels, founder of Shalva, told Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, referencing the Talmud to illustrate the magnitude of the law’s impact. “And those who earn their place at 2:45 a.m.,” Lapid jested in reply, referring to the late hour and sense of urgency involved in passing the law.
Lapid and Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Meir Cohen presented the new law at a conference held at the Shalva National Center in Jerusalem, which was founded by Samuels and is one of the country’s largest centers for disability care and inclusion. The new 2022 law is an unprecedented measure toward recognizing inclusion as a right of people with disabilities, emphasizing a countrywide transition from hostel care to independent living in the community, and makes Israel one of few countries up to par with U.N. standards for inclusion.
“We have passed this law so that people with disabilities and their families won’t have to do it all alone,” said Lapid, himself a father of a child with disabilities. “The State of Israel is telling people with disabilities and their families: ‘We have not finished. We will overcome the challenge together.’
“Every person with disabilities is different, every disability is different; but there is something in common: the need for help, the exhaustion of the parents, the frustration with bureaucratic hurdles,” Lapid continued, outlining the need for reform. “When Yaeli was 5 years old and we were completely drained, there was something I didn’t realize: That one day she would turn 21, and on that day the State of Israel would say, ‘I’m done, this is no longer my problem.’ Now this is being revolutionized,” he said, referring to his experiences raising his daughter with disabilities.
The conference was held at the Shalva National Center in Jerusalem, which is home to rehabilitative programs serving over 2,000 people with disabilities and their families. The Shalva center also acts as a hub of inclusion with model inclusive workplaces and social enterprises, community initiatives and educational programs that draw about 200,000 people from the broader community to the center throughout the year.
Kalman Samuels, whose contribution to Israeli society through the work of Shalva was recently recognized with the honor of Lighting a Torch at the National Yom Haatzmaut Ceremony, welcomed Lapid to the conference at the Shalva center, relating to one another as fathers of adults with disabilities. “It is an honor to be part of this incredible new future for people with disabilities and their families.
A first for Israeli law, the new measure legally recognizes independent living as a right of people with disabilities and also stipulates improved rehabilitative services for children, adults and families. The transition of thousands of adults with disabilities to independent living in the community is expected to change Israel’s standards of social inclusion across the board and require amended standards of disability accessibility in community-based infrastructures. Additionally, adults with disabilities will have full involvement in composing their government-subsidized support services package based on their personal understanding of their needs, rather than relying solely on professional assessments. Some of the new options for support services include professional guidance in domestic living, transliteration and sign language services, technology-based assistive devices, social support groups and more.
“Community inclusion is one of our chief priorities at Shalva, and our employment and independent living programs for adults have successfully proven that the more we promote inclusion, the more people with disabilities will be able to lead lives of dignity, meaning and independence. We thank the State of Israel for this important law,” said Yochanan Samuels, CEO of Shalva.
“This is a historical moment for the community of people with disabilities and their families,” said Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Meir Cohen. “No longer ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ In a short period of time, people with disabilities will be living among us as an inherent part of who we are.”
Commitment to enforcing the law will demand the partnership of existing municipal and community services, the involvement of cross-sectorial implementation committees, as well as an annual budget of about 2 billion shekels.