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August 8, 2013 9:16 am

UN Honors, Consults Israeli Disability Organization

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

Jean Judes, Executive Director of Beit Issie Shapiro (BIS). Photo: BIS.

There are approximately 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 held in New York on July 17-19.

Beit Issie Shapiro is Israel’s leading special needs organization; it improves the lives of people with disabilities through cutting-edge services, societal integration programs, and advocacy.  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.

The conference was the first time that the UN had Israel’s BIS present its work and research, but it wasn’t the first time that BIS received international recognition. Last July, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ESOSOC) awarded consultative status to BIS.

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This past May, BIS hosted the first ever conference of Israeli advisers to ECOSOC on disability issues, led by UN NGO Chief Andrei Abramov. Abramov visited Beit Issie Shapiro and stated that “Israel has much to offer the world through…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. The character 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, Colombia, and the Vatican have approached Judes to learn more about the disability programs at BIS. Even representatives from countries that don’t have diplomatic cooperation with Israel have come to consult with the BIS director.

BIS is helping countries like the U.K., South Africa and Uruguay build inclusive playgrounds following BIS’s own Ra’anana model playground, where children 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.”

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