A recent survey found that half of all Israelis do not want to meet anyone with an intellectual disability.
AKIM, the National Association for the Habilitation of the Intellectually Disabled, is dedicated to changing that statistic.
“When you get to know someone personally, you look at the individual and not at his or her disability,” AKIM chairman Maj.-Gen. (res) Ami Ayalon said at the president’s residence in Yerushalayim at the launch of the Israel Index of People with Intellectual Disabilities on Wednesday.
“Meetings with people who are different enable us to treat them as equals and to recognize not only their humanity but our own,” said Ayalon.
In a survey of both Jews and Arabs conducted by the B. I. and Lucille Cohen Institute at Tel Aviv University, 52 percent said that they would not want to meet anyone with disabilities and special needs, according to AKIM CEO Sigal Peretz Yahalomi. And 67 percent of those questioned admitted that they did not know how to talk to a person with intellectual disabilities.
Over half of the respondents said they believe that people with intellectual disabilities have no right to bring children into the world, 37 percent would deny them voting rights, and in all responses there was much greater bias against people with intellectual disabilities than against those with physical disabilities, The Jerusalem Post reported.
AKIM hopes to change these attitudes through annual measurement of the levels of acceptance of the intellectually disabled in Israeli society.
The organization is active in 77 cities and towns throughout Israel, and Peretz Yahalomi praised the Ashdod, Raanana and Dimona municipalities for their efforts to integrate the intellectually disabled into the mainstream community. AKIM is engaged in promoting employment for the intellectually disabled as well.
President Shimon Peres noted with approval the semantic change, replacing “retarded” or “handicapped” with “intellectually disabled.”