A System of Support to Enable the Physically Disabled to Live Independently in the Community

Recognition is growing of the importance of enabling people with disabilities to live independently in the community. Nevertheless, to date, almost no research has been done in Israel on what it means to the disabled to live independently, their daily needs in and outside the home, their need for recreation, a social life, services, or the difficulty of developing services that support independent life in the community. This study examined these issues from the perspectives of the disabled and of developers and providers of services for the physically disabled in Israel. Subsequent studies will examine these issues among persons with different types of disability.

The goal of this study was twofold: First, to identify the needs of persons with physical disabilities that are not addressed by the public service system and which, if not met, hinder their independent living in the community, in and outside of the home, in family life, social life and leisure activities, and in using various services.  Second, to map initiatives and programs for disabled persons living in the community that go beyond traditional services provided by government ministries, and to examine their contribution to the independence of those persons.

The findings presented in this report are based on focus groups conducted among physically disabled adults who live independently in the community; interviews with developers of services and programs for the disabled; observation of activities at the Center for Independent Living in Jerusalem; and a comprehensive survey of Israeli and international websites that provide information on independent living for the disabled.

The disabled persons who took part in this study emphasized the following points:

  • Their concept of living independently comprises two complementary ideas: the right to perform daily tasks by oneself as much as possible; and the right to decide independently or at least participate in decisions regarding the type of assistance needed.
  • The demand for independence by people with disabilities centers on three spheres: the closest circle (the family and caregiver); social welfare services; and society in general.
  • Some of the needs noted by the participants are:
    • Available emergency services, e.g. medical, maintenance and home repair and security services
    • Support services for children whose parents are disabled, to alleviate their physical and emotional burden
    • Information on rights, services and programs, as well as technical devices such as wheel chairs and vans
    • Access to entertainment and leisure programs, as well as social encounters with other disabled people
  • The study highlights the unique needs of three groups: disabled women; young adults (ages 21-30) with a physical disability; and people who became disabled as adults.
    Finally, the study suggests guidelines for establishing a system of support for physically disabled persons living independently in the community, diversifying the services, involving the disabled in decision making and service implementation and generating cooperation and collaboration among service providers.

This study was conducted on the initiative of the Disabilities and Rehabilitation Department of JDC-Israel and the Department of Rehabilitation of the Ministry of Social Affairs, and was funded with the assistance of JDC-Israel.