The Right to Access

The right to access means the right of people with disabilities to participate equally in any activity without facing obstacles. This right is very broad, since it relates to people with a diverse range of disabilities. A physically-disabled person has the right to vote in the Knesset elections in an accessible polling booth; an intellectually-disabled person has the right to receive information from service providers in easy Hebrew; and a person with impaired vision has the right to borrow talking books from a public library. Unless the right to access is ensured, people with disabilities will also be unable to realize other rights.
In 1996, the Israeli Supreme Court recognized the right to access as part of the right to inclusion in society. The court emphasized that accessibility is not based on a philanthropic approach or on charity, but on an adherence to human rights and equal opportunities. A decade later, in 2005, the accessibility chapter was passed as part of the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law. This chapter requires that public places and services in the State of Israel should be made accessible. These two milestones reflect the revolution that has occurred in Israeli law on the subject of accessibility in recent years. This development has had an impact on the ground: Regulations have been enacted relating to various aspects of accessibility; a new profession – “accessibility monitor” – has emerged in an effort to ensure compliance with the new requirements; the subject of accessibility enjoys greater public awareness and is now perceived as one of the main aspects relating to the rights of people with disabilities. However, in many ways the accessibility revolution is still at an early stage. Many important regulations in the field have yet to be enacted, such as regulations requiring the accessibility of services. Legal provisions have often been implemented on a partial basis. Further informational outreach is needed, alongside legal action to enforce the provisions. Lastly, people with disabilities are still required to face the reality of life in Israel, with a lack of access. A survey commissioned by the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2003 examined the level of access at public buildings in urban communities (including banks, educational buildings, HMOs, and shopping malls). The results showed that 95 percent of these buildings were not accessible to people with physical disabilities, and 88 percent were not accessible to people with impaired vision (summary of the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities access study – 2003).
Bizchut believes that the right to access is the gate that leads to all other rights. It is impossible to talk about equal opportunities or full integration in society unless we remove the obstacles that separate people with disabilities from their surroundings. Bizchut takes a broad-based view of the right to access, and believes it must apply to all people with disabilities in all public activities in which they participate.
Bizchut has worked in three spheres to promote the right to access: legislation, enforcement, and public awareness. In the sphere of legislation, Bizchut initiated, drafted, and promoted the accessibility chapter in the Equal Rights Law – the most comprehensive act of legislation in Israel on this subject. Later, Bizchut established and coordinated a forum of organizations working to implement the accessibility chapter. Bizchut has also initiated other acts of legislation relating to access: An amendment to the Land Law relating to accessibility adaptations in shared residential buildings; regulations under the Planning and Building Law enabling accelerated procedures for implementing adaptations; promoting and drafting a law requiring television broadcasts to include subtitles and signing; the amendment of the Elections Law in order to include special provisions for people with mobility disabilities; and regulations defining the requirements for accessible transportation services in urban areas. Bizchut has submitted several court petitions relating to the right to access, including a petition against the Maccabim – Reut local authority relating to the right of a child with physical disabilities to study in an accessible school; a petition against the Ministry of Transport and Dan Ltd. regarding the obligation to enact regulations ensuring accessibility in public transportation and a prohibition of the import of non-accessible buses; a class action suit against Egged and Dan bus companies due to the failure to make buses accessible to blind people and people with impaired vision; a petition against the failure to ensure that polling booths are accessible; and a petition against government ministries that have not yet enacted accessibility regulations.
Bizchut also works to disseminate information on the subject of access. In the past, Bizchut ran workshops for Egged on the subject of ensuring access to public transportation. Currently, Bizchut is running workshops on the subject of medical access and on ensuring accessibility in criminal proceedings. Bizchut activists have published several articles on the right to access (link to Neta’s article). Bizchut is currently placing particular emphasis on access to services, by promoting regulations in Knesset subcommittees and by providing workshops on this subject (link to workshops).

Your Right to Know
More than any other right, the right to access includes a large number of laws, regulations, and standards, many of which are written in highly technical and professional language.
The purpose of this sheet is to help you make your way through the maze of provisions, without going into full detail. We will begin by explaining the principles of the right to access. This includes such questions as: Who is entitled to access? Who must provide access? Who is an expert on access? When can an exemption be obtained from the obligation to provide access?
We will then go on to explain the main points of the existing access arrangements in various fields. If you wish, you can look at the laws themselves. Lastly, we will explain what you can do if you encounter a violation of your right to access.

Accessibility – Contents
1. The general right to access as it appears in law:
A. Public places
B. Public services
2. Who is entitled to access? (Neta’s article)
3. Who must provide access? (Neta’s article)
4. Exceptions to access
A. An excessive burden
B. Gradual implementation
5. Who is an expert on access? (mechanisms for implementation and enforcement – from Neta’s article)
A. Accessibility monitors
1. A new profession – definition (distinction between a place monitor and a service monitor)
2. The powers of an accessibility monitor
3. Where is the profession studied?
4. List of accessibility monitors
B. Accessibility coordinators
6. The interim period
A. Explanation of the period between the enactment of the accessibility chapter and the enactment of regulations
B. Bizchut’s legal interpretation regarding the interim period (there is a right to access under the terms of the law).
7. Accessibility provisions – a review by area (see below)
A. Key provisions
B. Link to the law
8. List of accessibility provisions due to be passed and copies of the drafts (see below)
9. What can you do if you encounter an inaccessible place or service?
A. Submitting a complaint to the place – standard letter
B. Contacting the Commission – Accessibility Order
C. Criminal proceedings (police?)
D. Contacting Bizchut’s hotline
E. Court action – compensation without proof of damages + class action suit