Old city of Jerusalem now more accessible to wheelchair users and visually impaired
The Old City of Jerusalem has become more accessible for both wheelchair users and the visually impaired, thanks to improved infrastructure and audio apps to help residents and visitors better navigate the small streets and alleyways of the Old City. The accessibility of the Old City is an innovative and groundbreaking project that enables wheelchair bound residents and visitors to enjoy the historic and cultural wealth of the city. Among other things, four kilometers of streets in the Muslim, Armenian and Christian quarters were adapted, and about 2 kilometers of handrails were installed alongside staircases. The accessibility is carried out with the cooperation of the merchants and the residents of the area.
The Old City of Jerusalem and its walls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and therefore are subject to special preservation rules designed to present the city and its heritage to its visitors, while developing and upgrading it to the benefit of its residents and employees. The Old City is the most visited place in Israel with about 10 million visitors each year.
The accessibility of the picturesque alleys of the Old
City is intended to ease the congestion in the main streets and to enable
wheelchair users, the users of freight carts (including strollers), and other
handicapped people, to visit the city's tourist attractions with greater ease.
Facilitation includes: Roads fixing; Fixing and renovation of public services (including
accessible); Adding direction and explanatory signs to the main sites and
spatial maps along the main tourist routes; Upgrading the current cleaning and
garbage collection system; Replacement of stone cladding; Highlighting
historical or archaeological findings of public interest; Installation of
infrastructure cladding for water clocks and a garbage collection point in the
tourist area according to the "street language"; Renewal of business
complexes, facades and facilities along the route; And the completion of
promenades from Zion Gate to the Dung Gate along the northern outer wall.
In order to complete the process, the East Jerusalem
Development Company also produced a printed accessibility orientation map along
with a dedicated application in 8 languages that enables real-time navigation
between the alleys and sites (GPS-based, similar to Google Maps).
Visitors to the Old City are invited to download, free
of charge, accessible guided tours in the "Vocal Tours of the Old
City" application (in the Jewish Quarter, Via Dolorosa, Temple Mount,
Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate).
In addition, the
Center for the Blind in Israel has made available an app that has made the Old
City of Jerusalem accessible to the blind with special audio tours.
The Tower of David Museum, located at the gateway to
the Old City, has made its flagship night show, known to all for its
spectacular visual content, accessible to the blind and visually impaired
the Central Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an audio description
(in Hebrew and English) narrates each scene presented in the show, which
depicts each different historical period. The uniqueness of audio description
is that it is embedded in the Night Experience’s screening technology
automatically, and is delivered through cordless headphones which are easy to
The Tower of David Museum also runs special tours for
visitors who are visually impaired where visitors get to feel “history” by
having hands-on experiences, touching the different faced stones from the time
periods of the city’s history from the stone masonry from 2000 years ago and
King Herod’s elegant huge blocks of stones to the rougher stones from the
Crusader’s time period and onwards. The Museum also had models of the Jerusalem
that show the development of the city as well as a model of the actual citadel
itself allowing visitors who may not be able to see the development of the
city - feel and listen to the history of the city unravel.
The Old City accessibility project is being funded by
the Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry and the Jerusalem Development Authority,
together with the Ministry of Tourism, the Accessibility Department of the Jerusalem
Municipality, the National Social
Security Agency and the Israel
Antiquities Authority, carried out by the East Jerusalem Development Company
and accompanied by accessibility consultants according to local topographical
restrictions, at a cost of over 20 million NIS.