A special park for special needs persons in Haifa
A park for special needs persons will soon be set up in Haifa.
The park will contain apparatus focusing on different senses, experiences and other attractions.
A position paper on the setting up of a senses park with accessibility was sent this week to the Mayor, Yona Yahav, by Eshkol, a Special Needs Organization operating in the city.
Last July a tour of the city took place, aimed at advancing the services given to special needs persons living in the city and its environs, including the setting up of the park.
The position paper detailed guidelines for setting up the park, such as apparatus focusing on different senses, a tour of happenings, physical and social access, explanations to raise the awareness of the public to special needs persons, a place of employment for people with handicaps and the participation of Eshkol representatives from the initial stages in planning the park, ensuring that the opinions of special needs people will be heard.
Eshkol representatives, working in the framework of the Volunteer Council, the roof organization of the city council, estimate that 30,000 people living in the city have special needs. They state that this group does not have sufficient opportunity for leisure activities and even if the various volunteer groups and community centers offer different activities, they are limited and center on people with specific handicaps.
They emphasize that such activities create "ghettos", without any interaction between the various kinds of handicapped people and also between them and the general population. In addition, there are few leisure parks in the city concentrating on the physical access or relating to the actual use of the facilities or the social aspect. As a result, the Eshkol members point to significant isolation of handicapped people from the social and cultural life in the town.
They maintain that the park will provide a solution for leisure activities of special needs people, will serve as an accessible physical area for activities, improving publicity and changing the perspectives of the general population to towards handicapped people and the complexity of their lives and needs. The park will enable interaction and social inclusion and will attract tourism locally and from abroad.
The Eshkol coordinator, Sharona Shinhar, states that the establishment of an accessible senses park in the city will brand it and its mayor as a city which improves life for all its citizens. "The park will stimulate the awareness of the city's residents to the handicapped, their lives, rights and needs, and will lessen stereotypical attitudes. A visit to the park will show the difficulties faced by the disabled and improve understanding".
"At the last education convention in town, a survey of pupils showed that over 30% were not prepared to study with a pupil with special needs – a finding which sends warning signs. We hope that the mayor will accede to our request to meet us to, in order to proceed with this important project", summarized Shenhar. Shenhar believes that the park will change the concept of "unawareness" and will become "an isle of awareness" to the lives of special needs people in the city.
The Eshkol Special Needs Organization has been active for a year and 30 organizations are members. The setting up of the park is only one of the projects with which they deal. They also deal with employment for the disabled in the private sector, preparation for emergencies, professionalization in management of voluntary organizations for the handicapped, volunteer work of the handicapped, encouraging younger volunteers etc.