In Summary
  • The NGO was founded by Mr Yuval Wagner, a former pilot who escaped death narrowly in a helicopter accident 19 years ago.
  • This year’s event, the sixth hosted by the NGO, attracted participants from all over the world, including 12 journalists, who were hosted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Mr Wagner’s dream was to form an organisation that would help anyone with a disability who visits Israel.
  • The NGO also helps children who come to Israel unaccompanied settle down.

TEL AVIV, Israel

The guests were blindfolded and led in a single file into a restaurant and asked to take their seats.

“Move your hands slowly and touch the edge of your table and locate the two glasses of wine laid out,” someone said, then added,  “Lift the one you think is the red wine first, then the white wine.”

The next challenge involved trying to eat with bandaged hands.

With the wine, it was easy to tell since white wine is always cold while red wine warmer. But eating with both hands bandaged  is not easy, and neither is eating blindfolded.

All this was on display at a symposium in Tel Aviv organised by Access Israel, an non-governmental organisation (NGO) that helps people with disability to tour the country’s many historic and religious sites.

The NGO was founded by Mr Yuval Wagner, a former pilot who escaped death narrowly in a helicopter accident 19 years ago.

This year’s event, the sixth hosted by the NGO, attracted participants from all over the world, including 12 journalists, who were hosted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Wagner’s dream was to form an organisation that would help anyone with a disability who visits Israel. The NGO also helps children who come to Israel unaccompanied settle down.

Says Mr Rani Benjamini, Project Director at Access Israel: “It is easier to learn as a kid, go to school and join the army, air force, or navy than if one were to do all that as an adult.’’

The NGO also helps injured people survive and  teaches the able-bodied how to interact with people with disabilities.

Adds Mr Benjamini: “When dealing with a deaf person, one of the core rules is to establish eye contact.”

At the seminar, it was a display of the best, including wheelchairs that cannot tip over forwards or backwards.   There were machines that can tell the colour of clothing as a blind person prepares to go out. You just point the laser at the fabric and it will do the rest through its speaker.

The blind can also get help with pouring water into a glass as they dine at a restaurant as a gadget will give a signal when the water reaches the right level.

There are also machines that can read hotel menus to a blind person to enable them to  select what they want.

And as the waiter approaches, a gadget that can be worn on the side of the blind person’s glasses will announce the name of the waiter. For instance, it will say, “Rani, Rani” once the image is saved in its memory.

MONEY-RECOGNISING MACHINES

There are also machines that can recognise money. All a blind person needs  to do is point a laser at the note and the machine will tell which denomination it is.

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