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Activist on Courageous Path Receives Recognition

Activist on Courageous Path Receives Recognition

Israel Elwyn submitted the name of Yoav Kraiem, a renowned Israeli advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, and a person with a disability, as a candidate for the 2013 Henry Viscardi Achievement Award in March.  This award was established by the New York-based Henry Viscardi Center, "in honor of Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., a visionary advocate for people with disabilities and to identify and recognize contemporary members of the global disability community who through their actions and achievements have, are or will profoundly impact the quality of life of people with disabilities."  The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards honor the Center's founder, Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr.  Born with shortened limbs, he devoted his life to educating the public, including employers and elected leaders, serving as a disability advisor to eight U.S. presidents, and advocating on behalf of all people with disabilities.  Israel Elwyn is grateful to former Board member and generous supporter Charlie Hammerman for making the connection between IE and the Viscardi Center.

Upon receiving the award, Kraiem stated:

"I am honored and excited to receive the Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, which is important for the recognition it provides for the acceptance of all individuals, and of the belief in the ability of people with disabilities to be a part of the human mosaic as contributing members of society.  I am reminded of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the central story of which reflects the delivery of the people of Israel from slavery and their long and difficult journey towards freedom.  At that time of year we are obligated to remember that we were once slaves and thus have a special responsibility to ensure that individuals and groups suppressed by societal systems be freed.  My colleagues and I, from various organizations of and for people with disability, devote our lives to this goal.  We know that this path demands perseverance along what is at times a lonely road, but remain true to our inner compass leading us to the better world we wish to achieve."

Yoav Kraiem was born with cerebral palsy and today uses a wheelchair.  Not yet 40 years of age, activist Kraiem has been effective for the past 20 years in the fight for legislation to advance the rights of people with disabilities in Israel, including the Law for Equality (parallel to the Americans with Disabilities Act - ADA-  in the USA) and the Law for Inclusion. 

In 1999 and 2000 Kraiem was one of the leaders of demonstrations staged by people with disabilities and their supporters to advance and implement their legislative rights.  After demonstrating daily for over two months outside the entrance to the Israeli Ministry of Finance, the movement achieved increased disability allowances and expanded rights for people with disabilities while changing public opinion by making people see those with disabilities as an integral part of society.  Kraiem, who was the spokesperson for that struggle, became a well known public figure by virtue of the media coverage that the demonstration garnered.  He later acted as an observer on the government-established Laron Commission - an entity that was headed by a retired Israeli Supreme Court justice.  In April 2005 the Commission published its report regarding the status of people with disabilities in Israel and the promotion of their inclusion in society. 

Kraiem works for the inclusion of children with disabilities in the regular school system and runs school workshops to increase understanding and the acceptance and inclusion of children with disabilities by their peers.  He was also a partner in the creation of a character that uses a wheelchair for Israel television's Sesame Street series, based on the American show.  Kraiem continues to remain in the public eye as spokesman for the Israeli Human Rights Organization of People with Disabilities and currently serves as the Chairperson of the National Council for Community Rehabilitation – Mental Health (a division of the Ministry of Health).  

Awardee Kraiem states that his vision is for the full inclusion of people with any type of disability in all aspects of life and according to their choice while consolidating a personal autonomy and creating governmental supports in order to realize each individual's personal desires.






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David B. Marcu, Chief Executive Officer

IE's mission is to develop and provide a wide array of supports and tools for people with disabilities, while constantly striving for excellence of service and the creation of a just society. Together with people with disabilities and society at large, we shall continue working as an innovative and cutting-edge organization.

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