By Guest Blogger Avital Sandler-Loeff, Israel Unlimited Director
Among Jewish communities across the world, the promise of a new spring is accompanied by feelings of freedom and independence as we celebrate Passover and Israel’s Independence Day.
Here at Israel Unlimited – a strategic partnership of the Government of Israel, JDC Israel and the Ruderman Family Foundation — we are committed to ensuring that Israelis with disabilities can be part of these celebrations, in the spring and throughout the year.
Our challenges are clear:
- How do we create an inclusive society in which everyone can participate?
- How do we ensure that the next generation of services addresses both public awareness as well the individual’s ability to choose the services needed?
Or more simply, how can we give Israelis with disabilities the basic freedom of independent living?
In answering these questions we have been inspired by the experience of the disability rights movement in the US in the 1970s. For it was at this time that services for people with disabilities underwent a major transformation, evolving toward a social model which offers multi-disability services to people with all types of disabilities. Most importantly they began to give people with disabilities the opportunity to choose, including the right to fail.
This change included the adoption of a person-centered services approach and the principle of the money following the person. In other words, eligibility for services is defined by the person and his or her needs and not the specific service.
The research shows that this approach does not cost more even though many people require intensive services. This is because the level of services varies from person to person and that means that savings may be had by closing buildings and creating services “without walls.” So the government can choose to divert resources from institutions to independent housing in the community. Today this is being successfully carried out throughout the US.
Recently a delegation of professionals from Israel Unlimited visited New York and Boston to learn about independent residential services in the community and person-centered services. Based on lessons learned, this year Israel Unlimited introduced a new model for independent residential living in Israel, designed to enable Israelis with disabilities to move out of their parents’ homes or institutions, and into the community – and a life of greater independence.
The program, to be piloted in three locations, scales support to meet individual needs at each juncture. This includes training in independent living skills, utilization of community services and home adaptations. As it begins to customize residential and person-centered services to the Israeli service system, the pilot is primed to transform lives here in Israel and is a wonderful sign of things to come.
May this year’s spring bring renewal and freedom to us all.
— Avital Sandler-Loeff