Wheelchair user Vladi Gur Ari: work gives me unlimited opportunities

As part of the agreement to increase disability benefits, it was decided to raise the amount for working people with disabilities, earning which, they can continue to receive benefits in full.

This amount will increase from 2800 shekels to 4300 shekels a month.

According to a working wheelchair user, lawyer Vladi Gur Ari, this increase is not sufficient and will not encourage people with disabilities to go to work. “This is a real omission of the disability rights activists. They have only half completed the task. Along with the increase in benefits, we need to make sure that people with disabilities are profitable to work,” he says.

Vladi himself works for the Israel Electric Company (Hevrat Hashmal) in the government relations department and is the administrator of the Sikui Shave (Equal Chance) Facebook community, which helps people with disabilities integrate into society and the labor market. Gur Ari also initiated and drafted a law that obliges the public sector to employ disabled people in the amount of 5% of the total number of employees.

Vladi is 35 years old. He was born in Kharkov. After birth, Vladi was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Because of this illness, he did not go to school on time. Vladi began to study only at the age of eight after moving to Israel in 1990. First, the boy was sent to a specialized educational institution, and then transferred to a regular school.

It was not easy to study there. At first, Vladi lagged behind other students. “I felt like a black sheep,” he recalls. But at the age of 15, Gur Ari took up his studies seriously, made up for lost time and graduated from school with honors.

After that, Vladi received his first degree in jurisprudence and is now completing his second degree in public sector management.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, among disabled people receiving benefits, only 11% have an academic degree. For comparison – 27% of the total population of Israel over the age of 18 have received higher education.

Despite his disability, Gur Ari does not consider himself a disabled person. “If a person can learn and realize himself, he has unlimited opportunities,” he says. “By going to work, people with disabilities become a part of society. Instead of sitting at home and talking about how bad they are, they show their capabilities.” According to him, work also gives him a circle of acquaintances, communication, a purpose in life.
Vladi works, despite the fact that he is considered to be 100% disabled. Since his income exceeds 60% of the average salary, that is, 5,804 shekels, he does not receive disability benefits, only movement benefits.

“Today, going to work, disabled people think not about how much they will earn, but about how much they will lose,” says Vladi. At the same time, he notes that he has met many disabled people who want to work.

Gur Ari believes that the maximum amount of income that disabled people can receive without losing benefits should be raised to 10-15 thousand shekels, and it is permissible to cut the allowance only if the income is over 7-8 thousand shekels. Vladi is sure that then many people with disabilities who are now at home on benefits or work only part-time will willingly go to work full-time.

According to the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi), only 22% of people receiving disability benefits are employed. Moreover, their average salary is about 2900 shekels per month. According to a May 2014 report by the Comptroller, the country’s economy loses five billion shekels every year due to the fact that most people with disabilities do not go to work.

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