Israeli NGO inspires societal change in Austria

The Austrian Parliament selects the Israeli National Self-Advocacy Initiative for People with Disabilities, developed by Israeli disability NGOs Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn, as a model for its society.

Austrian Prime Minister Heike Grebien (center) with representatives from Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn. Credit: Courtesy.
Austrian Prime Minister Heike Grebien (center) with representatives from Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn. Credit: Courtesy.

The National Self-Advocacy Program for People with Intellectual Disabilities, developed and led in cooperation by Israeli disability organizations Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn, was awarded the prestigious Innovative Solution Award 2023 by the Zero Project.

The Zero Project is an international organization that hosts a conference every year at the United Nations in Vienna, bringing together innovators and key decision-makers in the global disability field to foster partnerships through sharing solutions that benefit people with disabilities.

As part of this year’s conference, 71 initiatives from 42 countries were recognized for their innovative contribution to the field, which this year included Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn’s important project.

Beit Issie Shapiro representative Lilach Bar in the Austrian Parliament. Credit: Courtesy.

This National Self-Advocacy program empowers adults with disabilities to advocate for social and policy change for people with disabilities across the country. The model is the first of its kind in Israel that advocates on a national level; truly impacting policy and legislation.

As part of the conference this year, five Austrian Parliament members each selected an initiative from among the awardees that they wish to implement in Austrian society. Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn’s Self-Advocacy initiative was among the selected programs chosen to strengthen the political participation of persons with disabilities in Austria.

Member of Parliament Heike Grebien, who selected this project, shared: “People with disabilities themselves know best what they need. So the question is how we can support people with intellectual disabilities to empower themselves and be the ones in the room with the decision-makers. That’s what this [self-advocacy] program does … very often simple solutions make a huge difference, and that’s what we see here with Beit Issie Shapiro’s and Israel Elwyn’s program.”

Ahmir Lerner, executive director of Beit Issie Shapiro, added: “We are really proud of the success this group has had in Israel and are honored to partner together with leaders in the Austrian disability field to implement a similar mechanism for change in Austrian society.”

Austrian Prime Minister Heike Grebien (center) with representatives from Beit Issie Shapiro and Israel Elwyn. Credit: Courtesy.
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