In a bid to promote summertime accessibility and mobility, Israeli NGO Yad Sarah reported that volunteer drivers of its fleet of accessible vans have provided over 4,400 rides for individuals who are wheelchair-bound through June and July 2023 alone.
Unlike other forms of transportation such as buses with set routes or accessible taxis that charge higher rates and can only accommodate one wheelchair at a time, Yad Sarah provides passengers with door-to-door service to any requested destination in Israel at a subsidized price and for multiple wheelchairs. In the summer months, access to appropriate transportation is vital to promoting equality for people with disabilities, who may otherwise find it challenging to get around during the peak outdoor season.
Yad Sarah’s accessible van service, coined by the organization as nechonit in Hebrew, operates year round. In 2022 alone, it conducted 12,000 rides. The NGO’s 14 vans driven by 150 volunteers are available to any individual throughout the country who is wheelchair-bound – including residents, citizens and tourists. The service provides transportation to destinations including recreational sites, the airport, school, work, and medical appointments. Passengers along with their caregivers can book rides by appointment via Yad Sarah’s hotline (*6444 from Israel).
In one recent example, a Yad Sarah driver transported Ilan Mizrahi, 48, (pictured) a long-time recipient of the service, from his home in Lod to Bat Yam for a day at the beach on July 13.
Ilan’s mother, Yaffa, explained that, “The beach is the one place that makes Ilan truly happy, and helps him feel less ‘bound’ to his disabilities.”
“Ilan was born a healthy child and was an avid soccer player. At 17, he suddenly started ‘dragging’ his leg. Despite numerous tests and evaluations, the cause evaded medical professionals and his situation deteriorated. By 24, he was wheelchair bound. The situation caused him to fall into a depressive state. He dropped out of school and stayed home most of the time. The disease that Ilan suffers from causes gradual paralysis of all the muscles. The life expectancy of patients is typically between 35 to 40, so Ilan is already considered an exceptional case,” she added.
Over the years, Ilan began going on small but assisted excursions, however they were limited to the vicinity of his home. Thanks to Yad Sarah’s wheelchair accessible transportation service, Ilan leaves his house once a week, breathes fresh air and feels free, despite his disabilities.”
Yaron Aviv, National Coordinator of Volunteer Drivers, said: “As a driver, providing people with recreational services is of utmost importance to me because, without it, they simply would not be able to go to the beach, an event, or a friend’s wedding. When I have the chance to take passengers, I can see their eyes light up, and it provides me with an immense sense of meaning.”