Growing up in Russia, I don’t remember ever seeing a severely handicapped person on the streets. I am sure they were there, but they just were not in the public eye. Unlike Israel, where I live today, Russia still lacks specialized programs that advance the functioning of severely handicapped children. The underlying attitude is that since these children will never becoming contributing members of the society, they are not worth the effort.
Last month, my cousins gave up prestigious, well-paid careers in Russia and moved to Israel, all for the sake of seeking developmental treatment for their handicapped toddler. As they shared stories of state-of-the-art treatment at the Israeli day care center, I was moved by the commitment of so many professionals to go to great length to create the slightest improvement in the functioning of one child.
This realization came into my mind as I looked at the BodyPointer accessibility software at The Israeli Presidential Conference – Tomorrow 2012 . The program, developed by Moshe Unger and Miri Peretz, two undergraduate engineering students at the Ben Gurion University in Israel, allows physically impaired people to work on a computer. Through simple body movements, facial expressions, and thought, people can run programs, type, and play games.
The way a society treats its weakest, least “productive” members is the measuring stick of its humanity. Israel’s willingness to invest so much extra resources into the development of special children (especially when juxtaposed against the Russian “return on investment” approach) is the hallmark of this country’s moral character.
It may seem obvious to most people brought up in a Western society, but I think that it is very special that these two exceedingly talented young Israelis chose to devote their effort and time to developing innovative tools for improving the quality of life for the handicapped. Even more so, the fact that the university chose this project to represent it at a VIP conference speaks volumes about the values it strives to uphold.
Lest you think this is an isolated case, just down the hall, the Hebrew University was represented by a team of students, showcasing prototype mobility aids for the blind. From optics, to virtual reality, to specially crafted musical sounds, everything is focused on creating the most smooth-functioning, intuitive, and helpful tools that would allow the blind to function in an environment without the conspicuous white stick and a dog. Here too, it was clearly apparent that the university took great pride in the accomplishments.
Speaking at the conference, Dr. Ruth Westheimer named her grandchildren as her revenge over the Nazis. At this conference I got to see a different aspect. The Nazi regime killed close 200,000 handicapped people as part of its “euthanasia” program. As Jews, we not only survived, but have built a society, which upholds the opposite value system, that of nonnegotiable value of every human being.
No related posts.
Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.