With Shavuot coming up we remember the time when the Jewish people were given the Ten Commandments.
Biblical commentators say, “All Israel is responsible for one another” (kol Israel arevim zeh leh zeh). Yet we could be doing so much more to include people with disabilities in our communities.
To mark this occasion, Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel’s leading innovator of therapies for people with disabilities, has compiled the ‘Ten Commandments’ of making our community accessible to everyone.
1. People with disabilities are people first. Thou shalt see the person and not the disability.
2. Ask before helping – but do offer to help.
3. Offer emotional support to the families of people with intellectual disabilities. Be patient, understanding and welcoming even if not everyone who enters your synagogue understands social norms and rules.
4. Remember that many intellectual disabilities (such as autism) are invisible. Always give people the benefit of the doubt and remember, gossip hurts.
5. Talk directly to a person with a disability, even when someone has a special aide.
6. Ask respectful questions about a person’s disability. If you don’t understand a person with a speech impediment for example, that person would probably prefer you asked them to repeat themselves rather than pretend you understood.
7. Ask before making any form of physical contact with a person with a disability. This should apply anyway, to all people.
8. Speak in a normal tone to people who use hearing aids. They are set so that standard voice levels can be heard.
9. Introduce yourself to a person with a visual disability. It is preferable always to say who you are before talking to someone who is unable to see.
10. Make your synagogue physically accessible, so that everyone who wants to can enter.
This Shavuot, let’s make our hearts an even more welcoming place for everyone! Chag sameach!
Jean Judes is the executive director of Beit Issie Shapiro. The American Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro is holding its Humanitarian Award Celebration on November 5th 2014. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org