Access Israel: Making the Tech Era Accessible by Design
|Yuval Wagner, Chairperson of Access Israel, describes how the NGO is at the forefront of efforts to increase awareness and promote accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities and the elderly in Israel and globally
In 1999, I established Access Israel with the blessing of Ezer Weizman, the former president of Israel. Weizman was my commanding officer when, as a young combat pilot, my helicopter crashed, leaving me paralyzed from the neck down. Access Israel is an NGO that operates on two fronts to achieve its goal of making Israel fully accessible. Firstly, it strives to ensure that all spaces and services are retrofitted to become accessible. Secondly, the organization works to ensure that everything new will be designed in a smart and efficient manner that prioritizes accessibility by design. As a result of Access Israel's efforts, Israel has made significant progress in this field and is now among the world's most accessible countries. While this achievement is commendable, there are still significant challenges to be addressed.
Over the past eight years, Access Israel has expanded its reach globally, sharing its best practices with other countries, cities, and communities while also learning from their experiences. In 2022, the organization launched the Global Accessibility and Inclusion Leaders' Summit (GAILS), bringing together 50 leaders from around the world to collaborate on creating a more accessible future.
Era of fast-developing technology
We are currently experiencing a technological revolution that is rapidly transforming our daily lives. Soon, we will all be living in smart homes where we will be able to control everything with the touch of a button. Smart cities will help us locate parking spots for disabled individuals and people with visual disabilities will be able to navigate their surroundings using specially designed apps. All businesses and services will be accessible via the internet, even for those who are not tech-savvy; robots will assist us with our daily tasks; and drones will deliver our groceries.
With all these technological advancements taking place, it is crucial to ensure that they are designed with accessibility in mind – otherwise a significant portion of the population will be left behind. There is a historic opportunity to create a more convenient and accessible future, particularly for those with disabilities and the elderly. Under Access Israel’s leadership, Israel has the potential to become the world's first fully accessible country. Access Israel is leading Mission POSSIBLE!, an initiative aimed at proactively ensuring accessibility in all aspects of life for our technological future. Access Israel is seeking significant partners to join forces in this critical mission.
Purple Vest Mission in Ukraine
When the war in Ukraine began, Access Israel recognized the importance of prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable groups – people with disabilities and the elderly. Requests for assistance began to pour in. Access Israel quickly realized that these individuals are often left behind during evacuations due to the complexity of arranging accessible transportation and a lack of available information on the subject.
To address this critical issue, Access Israel launched the Purple Vest Mission in March 2022. This initiative promotes accessibility preparedness in times of emergency for people with disabilities and the elderly to ensure that no one is left behind.
Individuals with disabilities and the elderly recognize individuals trained to provide accessible assistance according to their purple vests, Since its launch, the Purple Vest Mission has rescued over 4,000 Ukrainians, provided vital medical equipment and humanitarian aid to over 10,000 people, and trained dozens of Purple Vest volunteers in various locations. This mission was made possible by a generous donation from the Nippon Foundation in Japan, and Access Israel is now seeking additional funding to continue saving lives in Ukraine.