Local Authorities: We Can’t Afford Handicap-Access Rules

An aide takes care of an elderly Israeli man sitting in a wheelchair. Photo by Abir Sultan/Flash90
An aide takes care of an elderly Israeli man sitting in a wheelchair. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

The High Court is this week scheduled to hear arguments against the government, which is demanding that local authorities make all their facilities handicap-accessible. This is the second petition by the local authorities group against laws and regulations passed by the government demanding that facilities like swimming pools and all public buildings be made handicap-accessible.

The petitions were filed in the wake of laws that require local authorities to ensure that their facilities – buildings, municipal-sponsored facilities like auditoriums and community centers – are all handicap-accessible. That’s fine, the local authorities’ petition says – but such a law must be accompanied by funding to pay for upgrades to comply, and the Knesset has not even considered such a bill, it says.

An assessment by the local authorities indicates that upgrading the facilities as required will cost NIS 15 billion, the petition said. Currently, there is no government money allocated for the project, and any money that is transferred to a city or town for this purpose is in response to specific emergency requests.

Last month, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee authorized for its second and third reading a law that will require more handicapped representation in government positions. Offices that have 100 or more employees will need to set aside 5 percent of the positions available for handicapped individuals. The law, which applies to government offices and government-sponsored institutions, provides organizations with five years to comply. If they don’t, they will be subject to fines and/or budget penalties.