Accessibility & the City

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For both visitor and local resident, an accessible city is a city that enables one to know in advance what is taking place, when and where, and allows one to leave home and arrive at a destination without difficulty, to enjoy participating in an event or experience, and then return home safely. People with disabilities are no different to anyone else. If their access needs are taken into account and some simple adjustments made to existing facilities, they are able to function in any environment.In The First International Jerusalem Symposium on Green & Accessible Pilgrimage, we will focus on the efforts of the Jerusalem Municipality to implement these improvements for access in and around the Old City and the historic basin, for the mutual benefit of the local residents as well as visitors coming from outside the city.The four sessions which will constitute the discussions on Accessibility will present four different aspects of the work that is being undertaken:

1. DAILY LIFE:

The Old City covers approximately 800 dunams (1dunam = 1000 m2) and is home to 35,000 residents. Approximately 11% of the population suffers from severe disabilities, and a further 10% consider themselves disabled. Residential buildings range from 2- 4 storeys and are without elevators. There is scarcely an apartment that is not accessed via stairs, most of which are curved. The houses are ancient, making significant changes in most of them extremely difficult.

During this session, residents of the Old City will describe their daily lives, and representatives of the Municipality’s Accessibility Unit will describe the process of identifying the residents’ needs and present some of the solutions they offer.

2. ACCESSIBLE TOURISM:

Millions of tourists visit the Old City of Jerusalem every year. In the build-up to and during the religious holidays and festivals, it feels as if there are more visitors than residents within its walls. In this session, we will describe the various aspects of a system for accessible tourism. Professionals, decision-makers and service-providers will each present the main accessibility issues they meet in their respective fields.

206 Wheelchair Accessible Tours in the Holy Land

Accessible Tourism to Israel

3. ACCESSIBLE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:

If there is a lack of accessible public transportation, there is no point in leaving one’s home. Jerusalem spans a vast area in relation to the size of its population. Its places of interest and its holy sites are far from each other, and they are all distant from most of the hotels and transportation hubs. A convenient and efficient transportation system, that is easy to use, is a necessity. Over the last decade, the Jerusalem Municipality has undertaken much pioneering work in this field, work that has involved the public to an extent that has previously never been experienced in Israel. http://www.shekel.org.il

Link to the magazine “A Matter of Approach”  (“עניין של גישה”)

MAKING THE OLD CITY’S PUBLIC AREAS ACCESSIBLE:

Almost all of the Old City’s streets and plazas are inaccessible to vehicles, as most of them have stairs at some point. Furthermore, the Old City Gates are inaccessible to large vehicles. Transporting goods and food, collecting garbage, moving cargo, bringing in heavy machinery, providing fast and effective rescue services, and even issuing disability certificates for cars, all require particular solutions and supervision. Moreover, people using personal mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, or pushing baby carriages, cannot navigate many of the streets. Alongside the difficult task of creating conditions for the safe movement of wheeled vehicles is the difficult task of providing disabled visitors and residents alike with a Location Information System that shows the accessible routes, so that they are able to reach their destination via the appropriate route. The mass of merchandise and the complex and complicated structure of the Old City require such a system that has been adapted for people who are visually impaired and have limited spatial perception.

During this session, the issues discussed above and the solutions recommended in the master plan for increasing accessibility in the streets of the Old City, will be addressed by the professionals who designed the plan and who are currently bringing it to fruition.

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