Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rabbis oppose Egged plan for audio-visual aids for deaf and blind

Rabbis oppose Egged plan for audio-visual aids for deaf and blind

Pressure from ultra-Orthodox rabbis could lead to revoking plans to install more buses with an on-board audio-visual system for people with sensory impairments.

The rabbis who object to the system, stipulated by the law for Equality for Persons with Disabilities, say the screens could be used for unworthy purposes.

The system has been installed in 72 Egged buses over the past year and a half, in keeping with the disability and equality law's regulations.

By the end of the year, Egged has undertaken to install the system in 500 more buses in urban lines, in five to six cities.

The audio-visual system is intended to serve all passengers, as well as those with hearing and seeing impairment. The latter will be able to know where the bus is and what the next stop will be with the system's help.

The law's implementation is being held up by ultra-Orthodox rabbis' objections to setting up screens in buses.

The rabbis object to having the screens in all the bus lines, not only in those passing through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

Transport Ministry officials said ultra-Orthodox politicians, such as Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (both United Torah Judaism), have been pressuring Egged to revoke the contract to purchase hundreds of additional screens.

Some of the rabbis agreed to have the screens used for commercials, which would finance the service. Egged promised to project no images or pictures on the screens, which could offend ultra-Orthodox passengers' sensibilities, but only texts.

However, the more radical ultra-Orthodox rabbis objected to having the screens installed in the first place, agreeing only to LED screens displaying the name of the next station.

The radical rabbis said after a meeting a few weeks ago that Egged promised them in writing to have only a LED display strip, not a screen that commercials could be broadcast on.