|NIF Organizes First- Ever Action Week for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Sports|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
Joyce Cook (far right) and Danny Wallace (third from right) get together with Israeli football fans.
The first-ever action week for "Access and Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Sport," which was held in Israel earlier this month had major impact.
Initiated by NIF and CAFE – Centre for Access to Football in Europe, and organized in partnership with the Israel Football Association, NIF grantee Access Israel and other disability NGOs, the week's events raised public awareness about the rights of disabled people and their entitlement to enjoy sports like all citizens.
During the week, Access Israel presented a report which found that every stadium used for Israel's Premier League basketball and soccer clubs are not accessible to people with disabilities. The report and the week's events were featured widely in the Israeli media.
Former Manchester United star Danny Wallace (left) and
Access Israel head Yuval Wagner, who is himself wheelchair bound, told a major conference on the topic, "We want stadiums in Israel to match the same standard as in North America and Europe. I went to see the LA Lakers with my son and we feel it is our right to have similar facilities at Maccabi Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena."
Esther Sivan, Director of NIF grantee Bizchut, Center for Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities said, "Sport is not a privilege, it is a right."
The commercial potential for ticket sales to an estimated 1.4 million Israelis with various types of disabilities was also stressed.
CAFE was represented at the events in Israel by managing director Joyce Cook and special ambassador Danny Wallace, the former Manchester United striker who retired after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Cook said, "Basketball and soccer make people pay attention, and we want to use that to bring about social change in attitudes not only in stadiums but throughout society. As disabled people we are not impaired, we are excluded."
The week of action started the momentum. MK Ilan Gilon, Head of the Knesset Subcommittee on the Law for Equal Rights for Disabled People, said that he would work towards implementing laws about accessibility to public places. Head of municipalities and sports bodies have also pledged to rectify the current situation.