Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Shalom from Jerusalem!
Shalom from Jerusalem! Hakol Biseder- Everything is good. We arrived Sunday evening and moved into the bed and breakfast where we will be staying for six weeks. There are guests from Australia, Switzerland, London, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Israel, and us from the States. Most guests stay for about a week, so we should meet many new people over the course of our stay. We somehow got to the Commission on time Monday morning and were introduced to the very friendly staff- Commissioner Ahiya Kamara, our supervisor Gaby Admon-Rick, legal advocate Yisrael Haber who has been training us, and more. Meir, another intern but not working on our project, showed us around the area. He does not know much English and we know very little Hebrew- yet we had a fun time and became friends. Monday afternoon we got right into our work. Here is what our project this summer is all about:
Disability (n): The inability to perform a major life activity due to an impairment.
The Israel Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities was created in 2000 in response to the passage of the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law (the Israeli equivalent of the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act) passed by the Israel Parliament in 1998. Previously, a disability was part of a medical model, as opposed to a social model. In the medical model, a disability was the individual’s burden. If you couldn’t walk the steps to enter a store because you are in a wheelchair, it was your problem. Under the social model, it becomes our problem. The Commission’s work embodies the ideal that one’s disability affects us all.
The Commission is in charge of advancing the rights of people with disabilities and enforcing the Equal Rights Law. In the past, the Commission had focused its efforts mainly on public accommodations; however, our project this summer focuses solely on employment.
The employment of people with disabilities is a major dilemma for numerous reasons: People with disabilities are difficult to employ, employers are not required to hire anybody in a free market, and the multitude of types of disabilities make broad solutions difficult. Despite solutions like accommodations, employer incentives, laws, and funded programs, only half of working-aged Israelis with disabilities are currently employed. Employing the other half, along with finding appropriate occupations for those already employed, is a complex puzzle that is yet to be solved.
To connect pieces of this puzzle- To review and analyze the current practices for employing people with disabilities in Israel. To compare Israel’s situation to the United States and develop recommendations for the Israeli government, businesses, and organizations.
Our first two weeks will consist of work with people at the commission, as well as conducting interviews with NGO’s, government agencies, and social enterprises. After that, we will interview Heads of HR or Corporate Social Responsibility at the Israeli sites of Multinational Corporations for another two weeks. The last week or two will be based back at the Commission offices at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem.
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