Feature Stories

Transforming the Lives of Israel’s Disabled Population

Dror’s congenital vision loss began to accelerate rapidly in his forties, and now he is almost completely blind.

The high-tech professional in Israel used his loss of sight, though, not as a limiting factor in his life but as an entry point for examining and improving his health across the board.

Answering JDC’s Israel Unlimited advertisement seeking facilitators for the Peer-Led Healthy Living Workshop, a component of the Accessible Health Zone (AHZ) program, Dror made two major changes in his life.

Israel Unlimited is a partnership of JDC, the Government of Israel and the Ruderman Family Foundation. Other partners include The National Insurance Institute, The Academic College at Wingate, and The Occupational Safety and Health Institute.

As part of the program’s Friend for Health component, Dror was matched with a regular running partner; he now runs frequently and is training to run a marathon.

And after completing the peer facilitator training, Dror has conducted two workshops encouraging other disabled people to embrace a healthier lifestyle and follow his example.

AHZ aims to promote the health and well-being of people with disabilities by increasing the opportunities for people with disabilities to acquire lifelong healthful habits. The program accomplishes this by: providing support systems for the disabled; ensuring that health programs and infrastructure for people with disabilities is accessible; and building a leadership network of successful people with disabilities.

Between 2012 and 2013, three zones were established in Ashdod, Netanya, and Migdal Haemek. In 2014 and 2015, each zone will be expanded to neighboring localities and additional zones will be established.

Dror says he’s proud of a host of people he has helped through the workshop: Ziona, who got into shape and manages to walk without her cane; Mordechai and Masoda, a couple who support each other in making healthy food choices; and Meytal and Roi, a young couple with mental health disabilities who are working together to increase their physical activity.

“The Accessible Health Zone Program holistic approach to health has given me what I was missing,” Dror says. “My new running partner has contributed to my social health, and my role as facilitator has enabled me to improve my health through meaningful activity.”

Tags for this story: Disabilities

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