600 people, including the Minister of Education, business leaders, CEOs and key figures in the accessibility field, took part in the 2-nd Access Israel Conference

Yuval Wagner (right) and The Minister of Education

How can the Olympic Games be made accessible? How does Microsoft make its products technologically accessible? What is the importance of accessifying, for the benefit of people with handicaps, all environments of life in the business, administrative, municipal, government and private sectors? All these burning questions, and others, were addressed and answered by the Minister of Education and prominent lecturers from Israel and abroad

The 2-nd Access Israel conference took place on June 2, at the Avenue Center. It put on its agenda the accessification of all life’s varied environments, for the benefit of persons with disabilities.

The Access Israel Association promoted and organized the conference to serve as a professional, educational and enriching platform for discussion of accessibility topics and as a unique stage from which to unveil novel developments in the world of accessibility. Some 600 persons took part, among whom were the Minister of Education Rabbi Shai Piron, the Commissioner for Equal Rights of People with Disabilities Mr. Ahiya Kamara, prominent Israeli and foreign lecturers, business leaders, accessibility professionals, architects and interior designers, representatives of government ministries and municipalities, delegates from organizations of persons with disabilities, vendors in the accessibility field and many others active in the promotion of accessibility in Israel.

The conference took place at a time when law making processes came to fruition, mandating the accessification of venues and services for the well-being of people with disabilities. It was an opportunity for the Israeli public to learn from world experts about global developments and examples of successful implementation in the field of accessibility.

The participants’ reception was rather special: they had the opportunity to walk the “accessibility path” along which they could, for moments, experience several simulated disabilities and share the feelings with which disabled persons live their entire lives.

The Minister of Education, Rabbi Shai Piron, opened the conference with a moving speech about disability, social as well as medical, and the extensive activities of Access Israel has to engage in, as a badge of shame upon a society that failed to realize its independence isn’t only in its flag and its Independence Day ceremonies but also in the freedom of access by all citizens to all venues. (more on this below)

Among the luminaries who attended and lectured were Mr. Mark Todd, at the time Accessibility Manager for the London 2012 Olympics, and now busy with the accessification of the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 games, Mr. James Thurston, the Director of International Accessibility Policy at Microsoft Corporation, who told the audience about the accessibility technologies embedded in all new Microsoft product releases, Mr. Ahiya Kamara, and others.

Sean Forbes, the deaf American hip-hop artist presented a rousing, engrossing and moving musical intermezzo.

During the Conference, the ‘Simcha Lustig z”l Access Israel 2014 Award for Accessibility Promotion’ was presented. The award, for inspirational and worthy of emulation activities promoting accessibility, was presented to the Municipality of Qiryat Gat, for its tireless and professional work to accessify life environments in its town, and to Mehalev - The Israeli Center of Accessibility in Communication, for the development of Step-Hear, a way-finding, information and orientation audio messaging system for blind and visually impaired persons.

The conference also hosted an exhibition by accessibility vendors of advanced and much needed accessibility solutions.

From the Minister of Education, Rabbi Shai Piron’s speech:

“We learn from research that a large part of the present conditions in various countries stems from two perceptions, that of medical disability and that of social disability. Medical disability is objective; the person and his/her handicaps – the more severe the disability, the farther the person’s marginalization in society. The more severe the disability, the deeper the disparity. Social disability prevents a person’s control over his/her degree of integration; instead, accessibility is the factor most limiting integration. Under this perception, we assess the society, not the person. Speaking of a society’s accessibility, we speak of its ethics, of its self image. A society without accessibility is inaccessible in all its aspects. That who is not accessible to people with disabilities is that who discriminates against people with different skin color; is that who makes the gap from center to periphery wider that it really is. When a country lacks accessibility, it is inaccessible to all, citizens, and communities. It is inaccessible to a world of ethics, innocence and virtue - these values become remote and fade away. For this reason, when I address the accessibility issue in the education system, I am striving for our moral identity as a nation.

The very existence of Access Israel is a badge of shame upon a society that failed to realize its independence isn’t only in its flag and its Independence Day ceremonies, but also in the freedom of access by all citizens to all venues. It’s not in access ramps, it’s not in sign language, it’s not just a systemic “The other is I”, it’s not in addressing special education issues – it is imperative to expand accessibility, and to start from the basics - the government data bases. This equates with Tikkun Olam.

So the journey is not one to accessibility, it is a journey to ethics and moral values. It is the journey we must make together in Israeli society – and we’ll make it – and we’ll succeed.”

Yuval Wagner, founder of the association, welcomed the forum:

“The Access Israel Association has been active for 15 years in the promotion of accessibility in Israel, aiming to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families. There are a few tracks to the promotion of accessibility - corporate social responsibility, community trends, law making and enforcement. A balance exists among these. We have come a long way since 1999; we’re in the midst of a revolution. The number of professionals in the field has grown. It is important to learn best practices from abroad, and share ours, to keep the balance between grass-roots accessibility activity and the enforcement of relevant laws, to work forever for better awareness and dissemination of knowledge. It is doubly important to exercise patience and sensibility. Thank you, and lots of success to all.”

From the Association’s CEO, Michal Rimon’s acknowledgments and closing:

I am full of hope that, having witnessed the profound knowledge and ingenious accessibility solutions shown at the conference, we shall all go home with renewed energy and with the realization that each one of us has the power to change for the better the quality of life for persons with disabilities. Each one of us can leave here and effect change. Accessification is not a dash; it is a marathon for which one must be equipped with patience, good will, professionalism and support. There is no need to re-invent the wheel; we’re here to help you. The real goal is not just accessibility, but the integration in society, with respect, on equal terms, confidently, by rights, and with maximal independence, of persons with disabilities.

And now “thank you”: a conference such as this cannot be organized and produced without helping partners. First thanks to Gilad Adin - it is indeed amazing how you orchestrated us all while paring back on schedule delays… thank you for emceeing, and for getting in harness with us. No doubt we will cooperate again. Thank you to the Lustig family - we’re sure the award will encourage a surge in the accessibility trend. We’ve all met the winners and we hope each one of you will remember, and strive, and be seen on the podium next year.

Thank you to the lecturers who shared with us from their experience. Thanks go to the American Embassy, especially to Paulina and Leslie for their help with getting Mr. Sean Forbes to be our guest (let it be known that we were to choose between Mr. Forbes doing the very special event we held at the Tel Aviv Port or his being with us here, but eventually Sean generously offered to do both, staying in Israel as long as he had to, and there is none happier than I that it worked this way).

Thank you to Microsoft Israel, in particular to Atty. Orly Friedman-Marton, and to Hagar Kostianovsky, for their cooperation, every year, and for helping us host Mr. James Thurston as our guest.

Thank you, indeed, to all our vendors and to our sponsors, including Hadesk, Metropoline, Hydrofix, and Comfort Portable Toilets who also exhibited here. We’ve had great feedback about the exhibition, there is still time to view it.

Thank you to the producers of the conference, Ruthi Koren from Oscar 4B and Yonat Burlin, who led the production for Oscar with tact, professionalism and patience. Thank you to the team at Avenue Convention and Events Center, headed by Zeev and Tali, who made it possible for us to ‘talk accessibility and integration’ at this great venue. We’re not meek and hapless - each one of you helped; accessibility is here to stay, it cannot be ignored.

Thank you to Publicis, whose people have been supportive of the Association since its founding, for their inspirational creativity, cooperation within the tight schedule, and for being true ‘travel companions’. Thank you, for many reasons besides this conference, to OneBrand and Shai Sagi, who worked day and night and enabled us to enjoy impressive design.

Thanks to Orna Ben Haim for the PR - a classic example of one not knowing what one is missing, until she joined our team - thank you for results already plain to see, and for what is still to become evident.

Thanks go also to the Institute for Cognitive Accessibility: Dr. Shira Yalon-Chamovitz, Marcelo Roisman and especially Ornit Avidan-Ziv, for linguistic simplification. More details about the kind of accessification they specialize in can be had at the Association. Do not ignore it - it is an accessification that must be addressed. We thank Mehalev for accessifying the conference for hearing disabilities, Lavetach Engineering and Safety Company, Simul for guidance, help and execution of screenings. Thank you to Pixel, responsible for the designs you have seen throughout the day and to Poslisit for the content and scenarios.

We thank photographer Omer Benovich, and our volunteer photographer Haim Kimchi, who has been donating his time for years.

Of course, we thank CTV, of the Fishman Group, who always help us with love and a feeling of partnership, as the whole Group does. We thank Kol Hasimanim for translation and simultaneous translation.

Special tanks and deepest appreciation go to the staff of the Association, who have given their best for this event’s success. The Association and its staff are dedicated at all times to creatively promote accessibility, with sensitivity and true belief in our cause. I am a lucky CEO, getting to work with such a team. Zooming in, many thanks to Michal Sade - Special Projects Manager at the Association, and to Atty. Orel Lapid who headed the exhibition set-up - you’ve done a sterling job.

Many thanks to all the Association’s volunteers: those who helped with the conference and those who give their time all year round, helping to achieve our goals. These days we’re proud to say, from Dan to Eilat: the Space for Independent Living, Access Israel North and the brand new Eilat and Arava Access Israel Space. Those who are active in Eilat must know Racheli, an amazing person. More details can be had on our website.

Thank you to the Association’s management team, Yuval Wagner and Rani Benyamini, for giving me and all of us the opportunity to realize our dream of an accessible and integrative Israel. See you all next year, at the 3-rd Access Israel conference.

Thank you to the Minister of Education, who moved all of us with a speech that received most stirring response; he’s a true partner to us.


See you all next year!


to watch the photo album - click here




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