By Guest Blogger Esther Sivan, Executive Director of Bizchut – The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities
Over the past two decades, many countries have closed or reduced residential institutions in favor of inclusive housing frameworks: small apartments located in the community. This trend reflects international awareness of the right to housing and inclusion in the community of people with all types of disabilities, as well as professional approaches that value optimal inclusion in the community as a key tool for enhancing the quality of life of people with disabilities. The right to community living does not determine only the location and conditions of the individual’s residential space; it is the key to enabling people with disabilities to enjoy community living to the fullest extent possible – in employment, leisure and cultural activities, using community services and interacting and developing relationships with their neighbors.
Despite its principle declaration of support of the right of people with all types of disabilities to community living, and despite the fact that the existing legal norms mandate a preference for community living over institutionalization, Israel has not yet managed to achieve the desired change in the approach of the relevant professional bodies or in government priorities relating to people with intellectual disabilities. Measures have not been developed to facilitate the necessary change in this respect: firstly, by establishing a diverse range of community living facilities, with maximum geographical dispersion; secondly, by closing down existing institutions, not opening new ones and not referring people who are entitled to live in the community to institutions thereby reducing to a minimum the number of people living in congregated settings.
We at Bizchut – The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities — believe that a fundamental shift in policy is needed. In a recent position paper we called upon the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs to lead a 5-7-year program establishing objectives for implementation of new policy in the field, policy that takes into account, first and foremost, people with disabilities and addresses other stakeholders: families, service providers and government officials. Government legislation should also be adjusted to ensure that the right to community living and personal assistance meet the principles of the Israeli Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law and the international standards as established in the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
While the Government bears responsibility for taking this brave and responsible step forward, philanthropic support for projects such as the Inclusion Index supported by the Ruderman Family Foundation can play an active role in promoting more inclusive trends among decision-makers and the general public. Working together to ensure inclusion including community based housing is one of the most vital missions of this decade.
— Esther Sivan