Beginning in 2015, all public transportation in Israel must be wheelchair accessible. Yet, simply having access to the service is not enough to help persons with disabilities lead a truly independent life.

Now, a new program is stepping in to fill the gaps between accessible transportation and the needs of the disabled community.

Galgolim Daram is targeted at the 67,000 persons with disabilities living in the South.

The goal of the program is to provide support and targeted solutions to help persons with challenges get to work, school, and social events.

“This will open up new vistas for people who otherwise would be limited in their ability to find employment, to visit friends and family and to have the ability to enjoy their leisure time,” Tal Goldman, project manager for Israeli-based Transport Today and Tomorrow said.

Funded by the Ruderman Foundation in coordination with the Joint Distribution Committee’s Department of Disabilities and Rehabilitation, Galgolim Daram will provide a hotline to help consumers navigate public transportation, handle concerns about accessibility, and provide information on discounts and fares.

The bulk of the program’s efforts, though, will be dedicated to educating disabled commuters and providing support for those whose disabilities make traveling alone an impossibility.

To do this, the group is recruiting volunteers from within the disabled community to serve as drivers, educators and peer mentors.

“Someone in a wheelchair who has a car might become a driver for someone who is visually or cognitively impaired,” Goldman explained.

He added that right now the goal is to recruit as many volunteers as possible to help persons with disabilities get on the road and on with their lives as soon as possible.

“The more [volunteers] we get, the more extensive the program can become,” Goldman said, stressing he hopes that the peer volunteer program will be so successful it will expand throughout Israel.

“Within three years, we aim to have the program running so effectively that the Israeli government will take it over and expand upon it,” Goldman said of the project that will help persons with disabilities in southern Israel lead more independent lives.

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