Many friends of AKIM – the intellectually disabled themselves, parents, volunteers and employees, are exposed more and more to trends that are developing in the world in the field of treating people with developmental disabilities.
These trends greatly strengthen the fundamental values of protecting every person’s respect and equality in their acceptance in society and lead public policy to develop models of integrating people with disabilities in leisure activities (no longer segregated frameworks but activity integrated within the community centers) in small frameworks in community dwelling, integration in the job market in various versions, such as the AKIM model – a sheltered working place within the free employment market – Promedico or the new employment working place that just opened in Sela Logistics in Ashdod (in these frameworks the intellectually disabled benefit from their peer group as well as being integrated with the regular society) and more.
Another trend to which we have been exposed is national movements of self advocates that were set up in the countries of the West, which are not satisfied with parents’ organizations alone, but grant right of expression to people in every aspect tied to their lives.
All this and more seeps into AKIM. Side by side with the deep learning process of these topics, we have crystallized a work plan that was presented for approval of AKIM’s Board of Directors. The Board at my request, approved a series of steps that will lead the organization to be more and more people centered, aspiring to inclusion and self advocacy.
Among other steps that were approved, advancement of integrated education; the people whom we support will be partners in choosing staff workers who support them in the facilities; the letters and the signs on the houses will come down (to the extent we can, with consideration for valid contracts) so AKIM’s hostels will not be different from the other buildings on the street – Hostels’ Directors and the staff will be occupied more and more in expanding the circle of friends of the people and their contribution to society (such as, volunteering in branches of Live and Let Live, in synagogues and various community activities) the leisure activities will be integrated as much as possible in community centers, and in certain facilities we already entered into activity such as Tzfat, Ramle, Modiin, Ashdod and more – residents in these facilities will be partners in choosing the management of AKIM branches – residents committees in various facilities will be chosen to express their position on various issues and a system of satisfaction surveys has started to function so that the people with intellectual l disabilities will express their feelings regarding the leisure and cultural activities in the facilities and in the out of home dwelling, in clubs and in general.
The first survey we undertook, we listened to very well, and after we asked the intellectually disabled to give their opinion regarding the expression “mental retardation” they all rejected it. It was, then, decided to modify the term with the agreement of the Minister of Welfare. The power of language is the most important power and we will try to ensure that this change will not only be linguistic but a profoundchange that will instill respectful behavior towards the intellectually disabled.