President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday hosted representatives of Accessibility Israel to mark its 20th anniversary. Accessibility Israel works to change the perception of the public space and improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
The president received a report summarizing 20 years of the organization’s activities from founder and president Yuval Wagner, and CEO Michal Rimon. The event was concluded with Orel Palomba singing the song made famous by the late Arik Einstein, “You and I will change the world,” which was accompanied by sign language translator.
The meeting closed a circle for Wagner, who was injured and became paralyzed from the neck down during his service as an Air Force pilot. He wrote a letter to President and former air force chief Ezer Weizman, explaining how difficult it was for him to move about in public spaces.
He was then presented with the challenge of establishing Accessibility Israel.
In preparation for Sunday’s meeting, the presidential palace security department underwent training with Accessibility Israel with the aim of adapting security checks and assistance for visitors with disabilities.
The resident spoke about how, when he was an MK, he met handicapped MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), who in one of his speeches coined the phrase: “a society that does not care about those who need help is unworthy of being called a society.”
“I was deeply impressed by his words, and since then have quoted this statement often,” said the president, adding, “It is our duty to make an effort and to take care of all those who have physical or other disabilities. Accessibility should be taken for granted. It is not enough to legislate regarding accessibility, there must be regulations that are enforced.”
Wagner thanked the president and said, “It is unbelievable how a letter to the president created 20 years of activity to promote accessibility for people with disabilities. It is nothing less than a revolution. From a country that was absolutely not accessible – not physically, not socially and not in terms of services, to one with legislated equality of rights and accessibility. 20 years on, Israel is much more accessible and allows those with disabilities to live better despite their limitations.”