(December 4, 2018 / JNS) In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary, Keren Kayemet LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) completed its multi-year plan to improve handicap accessibility in 300 of its sites, paths, parks, forests and open spaces, in accordance with the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law and accessibility regulations.
And so, to mark the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities” on Dec. 3, more than 1,000 visitors, many of them with disabilities, took part in numerous activities in four sites around Israel: Hula Lake Park in the north, Ilanot Forest and Ben Shemen Forest in the center, and Beit Eshel in the south.
Around 400 children, teens and adults with disabilities took part in activities at Hula Lake Park, which received the Israel Accessibility Prize in 2016.
Participants were taken on an experiential tour in the “hidden wagon” harnessed to a tractor, which enabled them to get a close view of the birds and wildlife around the park. In addition, the visitors were able to observe the tens of thousands of cranes and pelicans that fill the park at this time of year.
The path along the lookout points are handicap-accessible, with “step hear” columns to assist those with vision impairment or blindness by connecting to a bracelet on their wrist, or an app that activates the informative audio guide.
In central Israel, about 300 children, teens and adults with disabilities joined activities at the Botanical Garden and Visitors Center at Ilanot Forest, which won the Israel Accessibility Prize in 2015.
They enjoyed tours and artistic nature workshops tailored to the group’s needs. The garden contains an informative orientation system for people with impaired vision and cognitive handicaps, which allows them to receive simple and informative audio explanations about the site.
An additional 200 people all ages spent time at Ben Shemen Forest. The site has been made handicap-accessible with paths connecting the main areas: picnic tables, playgrounds, campsites and more.
In the south, more than 350 visitors explored Beit Eshel, watched a special pantomime performance and were even invited to take part in the show. All experiential activities were tailored especially for persons of various handicaps, both physical and cognitive.
Participants also received a map of different trails and areas in KKL-JNF forests that highlighted handicap-accessible sites and spaces.
“Making nature accessible to people with disabilities is one of KKL-JNF’s most important and significant roles as the leading green organization in Israel,” said world chairman Daniel Atar as Monday’s activities came to a close. “Nature belongs to us all.”