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United Nations consults Israeli non-profit on disability rights

By Mason White 2:29 PM August 6, 2013
Jean Judes at the U.N. 

By: Debbie Gross
The United Nations has consulted an Israeli group on disability rights, according to a report by the Tazpit News Agency.

There are around 780 million people across the world living with disabilities today.

At a recent UN Conference, a leading Israeli non-profit organization that services people with disabilities took center stage. Jean Judes, the executive director of the Ra’anana-based Beit Issie Shapiro (BIS) spoke at the three-day UN Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York held from July 17-19.

Beit Issie Shapiro is Israel’s leading special needs organization which improves the lives of people with disabilities through cutting-edge services, societal integration programs, and furthering right of people with disabilities. The organization works with 30,000 adults and children ever year and established Israel’s first accessible and inclusive playground, Park Chaverim in Ra’anana.

It was the first time that the UN had Israel’s BIS present its work and research in promoting social change in the field of intellectual and physical disabilities, but not the first time that BIS received international recognition. Last July, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ESOSOC) awarded consultative status to BIS.

This past May, BIS hosted the first ever conference of Israeli advisers to ECOSOC on the disability issues and rights, hosting UN NGO Chief Andrei Abramov. Abramov visited Beit Issie Shapiro and stated that “Israel has much to offer the world through ECOSOC by sharing its expertise and incredible innovations. ”

At the recent UN presentation, Judes explained in detail the important work conducted at Beit Issie Shapiro, which was founded in 1980 by Anglo immigrants.

“We discovered that children at a very early age think, feel and act differently towards children with disabilities and have negative perceptions towards them. In order to remove barriers and to make a real deep change in society, we have to change attitudes along the whole age spectrum,” Judes explained.

Judes also mentioned the power of mass media in building and changing community attitudes towards people and children with disabilities. She spoke about BIS’s partnership with Sesame Street in Israel, where the children’s show added a Muppet on a wheelchair named Sivan to the Israeli cast, which has since been used in country-wide workshops for children learning about disabilities.

According to the Beit Issie Shapiro website, representatives from across the world including New Zealand, Estonia, Columbia and the Vatican approached Judes to learn more about the disability work and to further cooperation. Even representatives from countries that don’t have diplomatic cooperation with Israel came to consult with the BIS director.

BIS is assisting countries like the UK, South Africa and Uruguay in building inclusive playgrounds following BIS’s own Ra’anana model playground, where children both with and without disabilities can play together.

“At a time when boycotts of Israel are on the rise, I am proud to represent the ‘Start-Up Nation’”, says Judes. “Beit Issie Shapiro develops innovations that impact positively on people with disabilities and change attitudes in the community towards people with disabilities.”