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Creating Easy-to-Use Everyday Materials for Those in Need

JNF Wire Report

Creating Easy-to-Use Everyday Materials for Those in Need

By: Megan E. Turner

February marks Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) throughout much of the Jewish community in the United States. Many organizations, such as Jewish National Fund (JNF), have a rich history of working tirelessly to assist various communities with disabilities or special needs integrate into their surroundings and society. And while many organizations assist individuals with “visible” disabilities—those who are deaf, blind, or use a wheelchair—there is one organization in Israel that is addressing those “unseen” disabilities to new levels.

The Israeli Institute on Cognitive Accessibility strives to help those communities with “unseen” disabilities by providing professional services and comprehensive access to individuals with cognitive disabilities. “We provide people with cognitive difficulties or disabilities with ‘cognitive ramps’ that help them access and understand their environments more easily,” explained Ornit Avidan-Ziv, 37, director of the institute.

One may ask what it means to “make an environment accessible” to those with cognitive disabilities. Avidan-Ziv, who is an occupational therapist and has been working with the institute for the past eight years, encourages people to think about “environments” or “surrounds” in a variety of ways. “Accessibility comes into play in our conversations with others in the way printed materials are designed, in signage, in the layout of spaces and buildings, and in the process taken to explain or demonstrate something,” she explained.

This could include providing an easy-to-understand colorful map at a park written in simple and clear language. It could also be as simple as explaining emergency instructions to someone who has difficulties telling time by teaching them to “Wait for three songs to finish before leaving the secure area,” instead of “Wait ten minutes.” This could also include training therapists and volunteers who work with these communities on to how better communicate with them and to use easy-access information. All of these and more are services and programs designed and provided by the Israeli Institute on Cognitive Accessibility.

This innovative way of thinking has led the institute to work on many different projects to help the wider special needs community in Israel, and specifically for those dealing with cognitive disabilities. “All subjects that are modeled as ‘easy-access’ for those with disabilities serve to help those with special needs to feel more included in society. We are all busy and overloaded, so this type of accessibility is appropriate for everyone,” Avidan-Ziv said.

Groups who benefit directly from the institute’s projects are not just those dealing with cognitive disabilities. The institute’s various accessibility tools have been used throughout Israel to help patients dealing with confusion and lowered cognitive ability as a result of chemotherapy, individuals with chronic illnesses, new immigrants and tourists who may not understand Hebrew, young children, and the elderly.

The institute has even collaborated with other organizations to design a curriculum and siddurs for teenagers with cognitive disabilities to study and prepare for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

Another in-house project of is an easy-access Passover Haggadah that provides easy-to-understand explanations on many levels. Alongside the original religious text is an explanation in simpler language, and alongside that, there are simple pictures and symbols that wordlessly explain what actions are taking place in the Seder. Even the physical design of the book is made to stand on its own for those who may not have the strength or the stamina to hold up a book and turn the pages. The Haggadah also displays colorful pictures depicting various parts of the Passover story drawn by people with cognitive disabilities, and expressing their understanding of the text.

These various projects have been made possible by partnerships with various academic and research centers in Israel, as well as HaMeitz, a social enterprise and small business accelerator that functions as part of JNF’s Lauder Employment Center in Be’er Sheva. After two years of hard work and entrepreneurial mentorship from the Lauder Employment Center, the Israeli Institute on Cognitive Accessibility has been able to make its mark on Israel’s business sector, all while helping societies’ most vulnerable citizens.

Through it all, this growth and development have also been made possible with the institute’s motto in mind: “Slowly and simply—all is accessible!”

Contact:
Adam H. Brill,
Director of Communications
abrill@jnf.org

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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.

JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.

JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.

For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.

 

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