Dear Friends of Full Access:
Many of you may remember our partnership through MIUSA, involving an organization called Bizchut from Jerusalem, Israel and Ono Academic College. Once our exchange was finished, one organization from our team was given the opportunity to receive a grant to fund a project that involved expanding advocacy work for people with disabilities.
Bizchut was chosen to receive this small grant, and has made strides in the goal of placing independent advocacy for persons with intellectual disabilities on the agenda in Israel. In other words; having people with intellectual disabilities lead the way advocating for civil rights as well as the right to make the choices affecting their lives. It is advocacy for the same rights of all people with disabilities in Israel.
A self advocate that was a part of our team, Shmulik, is heading up this project. He has the support of someone that works at Bizchut, but he is blooming into a strong advocate and leader. His primary goal is to create his own organization that supports social change for people with intellectual disabilities and is run by people with disabilities. With consistent support, Shmulik has gained understanding of what it will take to do this and continues to work toward this goal.
Shmulik and his support person participated in a conference that was organized by the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was attended by 700 people. This conference supported the opportunity to network and learns more about the barriers faced by people advocating for disability rights.
Shmulik and his support person also gave a lecture at the conference for social workers who work with people with disabilities. His lecture focused on what he learned from his trip to the United States and participating in the exchange with Full Access. Specifically, how our brokerage system allows people receiving supports to choose what they would like to get for supports, but more importantly how they want to live their life. Currently in Israel, individuals do not get any say in what supports they receive. They are given a guardian who makes all the decisions for them, with the person needing support getting no say in the decisions that affect their life. This is the exact thing that our partners are trying to change.
Shmulik is attempting to build relationships with other organizations in Israel. Many of his outreach attempts have been successful. A challenge in the future is getting a large parent organization to see the benefit of letting their “children” with intellectual disabilities make decision for themselves (good or bad). A lot of fear is going to have to be addressed, and it will be a long, challenging journey. However, if Shmulik and his team are successful, they will have an important ally in changing the entire system.
A lot of progress has been made, and there will be lots more to come. Shmulik is building his core group of leaders, all of whom have a disability, to lead this movement of new activists. He continues to teach advocacy and social justice at the teacher training college in Jerusalem. He has developed a Facebook page to expand his group and communicate with individuals interested in his organizations work. Over time his group will grow and blossom into an organization, and that organization will continue to make waves of changes for the benefit of people with disabilities in Israel.
I feel honored to have met these people and to have had a tiny part in such a hugely important movement for the rights of persons with disabilities.
-Stephanie Blum, Personal Agent at Full Access