Jerusalem is well known for its holy sites, stone, and its open air market. This market place is called “Machane Yehuda” or simply “the Shuk.” It is an outdoor market, mostly for food, with one main walkway and two parallel walkways on either side. Due to the large number of people in a small space, during the Intifadas the Shuk was the site of many terrorist bombings. Similar to Ben Yehuda Street (see earlier posting) it needed to be rebuilt in the early 2000’s. In doing so they made the walkway/streets a bit wider and completely flat. I would imagine they made it completely flat so that shop owners could easily bring goods to their shops on wheeled carts. However the result is still a completely accessible environment! This is a great example of what special educators call “Universal Design”: structuring an environment so everyone can use it for a variety of reasons. For instance, everyone (people with wheelchairs, parents with strollers, customers with shopping carts, or pedestrians) can use a ramp.
However, in the Shuk, the challenge to accessibility is not with the physical environment. Any place with throngs of people and crowded, pushy Israelis makes it a difficult environment to navigate. Yishai did a great job, with help from me and some of his friends as well. Many shop owners were happy to come out of their shops and assist him as necessary.
The picture above is of a woman who I observed shopping in the Shuk. Many people use the Shuk as their primary food shopping location. The prices are cheaper and the produce fresher. After watching this woman (I was trying very hard to be a creeper…hopefully I succeeded?) I determined that this woman regularly shops at Machane Yehuda. She knew the shop owners, who were more than happy to assist her as necessary as she bought three peppers, two eggplant, and some cucumbers. I was ecstatic to see someone with her physical disabilities using this environment successfully and regularly!