Access Israel MAKING THE DIGITAL AGE ACCESSIBLE
For the past 18 years, Access Israel has been promoting accessibility in Israel in order to enable people who are coping with disabilities to live normal lives. Now the NGO is looking towards the future
By Yuval Wagner - Founder and President of Access Israel
Access Israel has made a lot of progress since it was founded, such as advancing inclusive education in schools all over Israel, teaching service providers from all sectors how to provide accessible service, turning Israel in to an accessible destination for tourists with disabilities and the elderly, and much more. Although there have been many achievements, there are still many challenges to overcome in order for the country to be truly accessible and able to integrate everybody in a full and egalitarian manner.
This year, Access Israel has announced a new initiative: an innovative national project whose goal is to transform Israel into a digitally accessible country, and to become a world leader in this field. In the near future, we will all become even more dependent on technology; we will drive autonomous cars, live in smart homes in smart cities, use apps and gadgets connected through the Internet of Things (IoT), pay with smart wallets, rely on robots to help us, and dictate instead of typing.
Since the whole world is going to become digitalized, we must ensure that all these future technologies will be practical for disabled and elderly people. Just as it’s unthinkable that a shopping mall or restaurant won’t be accessible, it’s just as unthinkable that future technologies won’t be accessible to a large sector of the population – those who have disabilities or are elderly.
This is a historic opportunity. For the first time, it will be possible to address accessibility issues from the beginning and to avoid a situation where almost a third of the population will be prevented from using technological products and services. The issues that are currently on the table mainly have to do with using the Internet, smart phones, touch screens, automatic devices and information kiosks. However, in the near future every aspect of our lives will be affected.
There are three main areas of technological accessibility. The first is assistive technology (AT), mainly consisting of solutions for specific difficulties encountered by people with disabilities. The second is making applications accessible in general, especially those involving interaction between a business and a client – B2C. The third area is special technologies for assisting clients with disabilities or those who are elderly.
Access Israel is leading this strategic national initiative, which is not only crucial to the future quality of life and integration into society of people with disabilities and the elderly in Israel, but will also be an excellent means of improving Israel’s image in the world. In order to achieve this goal, it is important to increase awareness about this issue, as well as to pass relevant laws, develop models for implementing accessibility measures, and establish an R&D center focusing on this subject. The initiative is currently being established, and Access Israel welcomes partners who would like to take part in this innovative project.
Improving the quality of lifeAccess Israel, established in 1999, is the first non-profit organization in Israel whose main mission is to promote accessibility and improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and the elderly. The NGO strives to make Israel a place where people with various disabilities are integrated into society with dignity, respect, equal rights and maximum independence.
Since its establishment, Access Israel has revolutionized the quality of life and accessibility for hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities and elderly in Israel. It has become a leading organization worldwide and a model for making businesses, as well as government, academic and non-profit organizations fully accessible. These achievements are the result of a wide range of innovative projects, ongoing awareness activities and improvement of business models aimed at improving accessibility in Israel.
Over 1.6 million people with disabilities live in Israel today (18% of the population). About 700,000 of them cope with severe disabilities, whether from birth or inflicted by accidents, illness, old age or wars/terrorism. They suffer from physical, sensory, cognitive and mental disabilities. The lack of accessibility prevents them from leading normal lives, causing them and their families great suffering. Over the years, Access Israel has succeeded in promoting the topic of accessibility and giving a voice to this large disabled population. In the last year Access Israel has successfully worked on turning Israel into a global leader in the area of accessibility and branding Israel as the “ACCESSIBLE start-up nation".