Access Israel’s delegation to Latvia: promoting awareness of the importance of accessibility


On 26.6.2019, Access Israel, in cooperation with the Israeli embassy in Latvia, sent a delegation to lecture and give workshops as part of the special “Lampa” (conversation) festival in Cēsis

The first day began with a workshop called Loss of senseswhere the participants met a person with a hearing impairment from Access Israel, and a person with mobility disability from the local organization Apeirons, who shared their personal accessibility challenges in their own countries, as well as hardships and successes.

Participants in the workshop experienced communication without hearing
Participants in the workshop experienced communication without hearing

During the workshop, the participants experienced blind ice cream tasting, communication with sound-proof headphones, trying to read a book while wearing gloves that limit hand movements, and more. The participants learned how to offer help to people with disabilities and how they can lead change in their surroundings and make it more accessible and inclusive.

Later that day, a night workshop in Israeli Sign Language was held, which was broadcast live in Latvia. The workshop dealt with breaking myths, communicational accessibility, and the importance of sign language.

The audience learned the right way to communicate with a deaf person, experienced communication with hearing impairment through a simulation, and was taught signs in both Israeli and Latvian sign languages (in cooperation with the Latvian association for people with hearing impairments). At the end of the workshop the participants were invited to get to know the Latvian deaf community and work together to prom te awareness.

The participants experienced blind walking
The participants experienced blind walking

The last day of the festival started with a lecture on making accessibility a trend, using The 4-pillar modalwhich was developed by Access Israel: Knowledge, encounter, experience, and paying it forward.

The knowledge part was led by Shelly Rom, during which the participants learned about Access Israel, the way that accessibility is seen around us, and how each of them can lead change.

The meeting part was led by Yehonatan Shiyovitz, translated to and from Israeli Sign Language by Sar-El Ohana. Yehonatan shared his life story, the challenges he faced growing up, the successes and what accessibility means to him. In addition, Yehonatan told the participants about the Pay it forward in sign languageproject, which connects hearing and deaf people and shows how a bridge can be built between the two communities.

The experience part was led by a local band called Burtnieks. The band taught and performed with the audience a song about faith in peoples ability to communicate in diverse ways in Latvian sign language.

a night workshop in Israeli Sign Language
a night workshop in Israeli Sign Language was broadcast live in Latvia 

In addition, Access Israel took part in professional round tables on Altering Societys DNA, with experts on accessibility in Latvia, CEOs of different organizations, the Minister of Health, the assistant to the Minister of Welfare and more. The round tables followed a lecture by the representatives of Access Israel about the basics of accessibility, social accessibility and the human ramp as major elements required to create true change and become a truly inclusive society.

During the lecture the Pay it forward in sign languageproject was also discussed, particularly its influence and how it can be integrated into the Latvian language. There is great value in communal involvement to create social change and awareness. Additional speakers referred to the required change in the education system, the health system, municipalities, organizations etc., and the need to make them accessible, integrated, and inclusive.

Ambassador Lironne Bar Sade welcomes the participants who took part in professional round tables
Ambassador Lironne Bar Sade welcomes the participants who took part in professional round tables

To conclude, it was very interesting to see the difference between the two countries, to learn about the Latvian accessibility status, and teach about the state of accessibility in Israel. It was a unique opportunity to see diverse accessibilities, inclusion, tolerance and patience in a large verity of ways and means.

Our representatives went on an exciting, empowering and strengthening journey both for them and for the community of people with disabilities in Latvia. We extend our gratitude to the team at the Israeli embassy in Latvia, led by ambassador Liron Bar Sade, who has taken it upon herself to promote and lead the subject. We also thank the translators to spoken English and Latvian and sign languages Israeli and Latvian, the representatives of the deaf community who have embraced us with open arms and all the partners in making this journey a successful one. We hope that we were able to start an educational, conceptual process within the Latvian community. 

Liron Bar-Sade, Israeli Ambassador to Latvia:

"This is the second time we cooperate with Access Israel. The first time was in a large-scale project which included a visit to a few cities over a week, and this time we focused on two days in the "Lampa" democracy festival, in the lovely town of Tzasis

It was special and exciting for me to see the thought-out and energetic activities that Access Israel's workers Sar-el Ohana Oren, Yehonatan Shayovitz, and Shelly Rom put on for the event. It was thrilling to see the empowerment the team gave to the Latvian deaf men and women who came to meet them. The encounter gave them a sense of pride and confidence which will stay with them throughout their lives.

I am sure that the seed planted there will ripen in Latvia, and meaningful changes and developments will come of it".

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