This Monday, the members of Shibolink, a group of mechina (gap-year leadership academy) students with and without disabilities, launched a national campaign for accessibility modification of intercity public transport. Information gathered by Shibolink members and revealed as part of the campaign shows that most mechina students with disabilities can’t get to mechina every week by public transport. Instead, they have to get there in some other way. Boarding most buses involves a high step up from the sidewalk and several more narrow stairs, which lead to another narrow passage on the way to the seats. Such buses also have no space marked off for guide dogs. Their public address systems often do not work or are unhelpful. Station names do not appear precisely on the display, and this makes it difficult for individuals with physical and sensory disabilities to find their way.
The students called upon Minister of Transport Bezalel Smotrich to improve accessibility of buses and stations on the way to the mechinot and nearby institutions that provide educational and social services. In a video shot for the campaign, mechina students talk about how hard it is for them to get to mechina every week by public transport and about the public importance of accessibility.
In a letter to the minister of transport, the students of Shibolink propose that 10 intercity bus lines for which there are no alternative train routes be made accessible immediately. The four regions served by these 10 lines—Chof HaCarmel, Shapir, Yoav, and the Jezreel Valley—are home to 11 mechinot and other educational institutions that mainstream individuals with disabilities. According to the students’ proposal, the upgrade requires a one-time investment of NIS 6 million (equivalent to 0.03% of the annual budget of the Ministry of Transport). In the same letter, the students also urge the minister to enshrine complete accessibility of intercity public transport in appropriate laws and regulations and to allocate for this purpose an additional NIS 325 million per year over 12 years, representing just 1.6% of the budget of the Ministry of Transport.
The Shibolink leadership group is a collaborative effort of Shibolim, the program for mechina attendance among young people with disabilities, and Link 20, the Ruderman Family Foundation’s national network of young people with and without disabilities. The program is for students at mechinot participating in Shibolim.