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  • The new wheelchair-accessible shuttle

    The new wheelchair-accessible shuttle

    University Introduces New Services for Persons with Disabilities

    Date: 2018-12-03 Hour: 14:09

    As the world marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Monday, December 3, Bar-Ilan University is introducing two additions to its diverse array of existing services for the disabled.     

    One of these additions is a technology that facilitates access to buildings, classrooms and restrooms for the physically disabled and the elderly by automatically opening doors for them. The new technology, known as “Heron”, opens doors that have a small robot affixed to them.  The robot is activated via remote control or through an app that will soon be available for download on Android devices.  The door opens when the appropriate selection is made on the app or the remote control.  Once entry is gained the door closes automatically after approximately 12 seconds.

    Heron is currently in use at the entrance to Building 407, home to the Sybil Wigdor Social Involvement Unit, whose Support Center, together with the University, offers academic and physical support, and services approximately 1,500 students with physical, mental and chronic disabilities. 

    Bar-Ilan University is the only university in Israel currently using this technology, which was developed by Petel, a startup company formed by the non-profit organization Milbat. Petel is housed at Bar-Ilan University’s Smart City Impact Center.  The Smart City Impact Center brings together city officials, tech companies, and researchers to improve quality of life in Israel’s urban environments and beyond.  

    “Our goal should be to integrate people with disabilities into society and Israeli academia has an important role to play in this,” says Dr. Eyal Yaniv, who directs the Smart City Impact Center.  “Petel’s technology enables people, literally, to ‘open doors’.  An activity that seems simple for healthy people can be quite complex for the disabled, so we are pleased to be a hub and a testing ground for startups that contribute to society.”

    “Suddenly, what can be a daunting task for a person in a wheelchair is not only possible, but incredibly simple," says Ran Goldstein, General Manager of the Smart City Impact Center. "This technology offers a novel way to empower the physically disabled and the elderly by providing them with a greater sense of confidence and independence.”  The technology is currently on display at the Smart City Impact Center.

    To further assist persons with disabilities, the University has invested 130,000 shekels to purchase a new, wheelchair-accessible vehicle for its cross-campus, environmentally-friendly shuttle system.  The shuttle system helps students and faculty -- with and without disabilities -- to navigate the expansive University campus. 

    Since 2003 the Disability Rights Legal Clinic has been providing legal aid and disability rights information to persons with disabilities in Israel and their family members, empowering them and fighting for their equality under the law in all areas of life. The most common problems that need to be addressed concern accessibility, social security, guardianship, housing, employment, insurance, special education, medical treatment and government benefits.   

    Over the past year one of the key topics on which the Clinic focused was leadership and disability, through a joint project with the Ruderman Family Foundation and its Link20 global social movement.   This topic was selected out of awareness of the fact that persons with disabilities face many barriers -- such as the absence technology enabling accessibility, prejudice, low expectations, and more – in reaching positions of influence and leadership.  As part of the project the link between leadership and disability, and the ways in which leadership can be encouraged among people with disabilities were explored based on the understanding that people with disabilities generally do not reach leadership positions.  A report, which included an analysis of the study and conclusions, was presented to Israel President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, at a special meeting moderated by Karin Elharrar MK, former Director of the Bar-Ilan University Legal Clinics.

    The Dean of Students Office acts on behalf of all of Bar-Ilan students, cares for their welfare, and provides equal opportunities for students and applicants coping with physical, mental, social and/or academic disabilities.

    The Students with Disabilities Forum works to promote accessibility on campus, as part of a national project. The forum operates in coordination with the Sybil Wigdor Social Involvement Unit and the Student Union on three levels: providing assistance to students who encounter accessibility problems during the course of studies, assisting in directing them to the relevant authorities, and raising awareness of academic accessibility among students, faculty members and administrative staff. 

    The websites of Bar-Ilan University and its various departments have been made accessible so that persons with disabilities receive service, make effective use of the services and information offered, and can surf the Internet with the same level of efficiency and enjoyment as others. The home page has an "accessibility" button on the upper right corner, which allows persons with disabilities to choose the appropriate profile for them to operate the site.