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Israel: Law on Rights of Students with Learning Disabilities Amended

(Oct. 6, 2014) On July 28, 2014, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed an amendment to the Law on Rights of Students with Learning Disabilities at Post-Secondary School Institutions, 5768-2008. (SEFER HAHUKIM (Book of Laws, Official Gazette) 5768 No. 2147, p. 434 [in Hebrew]; RSLD (Amendment) Law, 5774-2014 [in Hebrew] (July 28, 2014), Knesset website [scroll down page for hyperlink to the Law].)

The Law establishes the rights of applicants and of students with learning disabilities to receive accommodations, during the admissions process as well as in the course of study, as appropriate, at institutions recognized by the Law as post-secondary institutions (RSLD Law §2). The Law also provides for the integration of persons with learning disabilities into such institutions (id. §4). The Law defines a “learning disability” as a disability that impacts cognitive processes and is manifested by significant difficulties in meeting what is expected from a person at his/her age in acquiring proficiency or the ability to pay attention; to concentrate; and to use language, writing, arithmetic, and social or emotional skills. Learning disabilities deriving from sensory harm; motor or intellectual disabilities; or external disabilities associated with environmental, cultural, or socio-economic conditions are excluded from those defined as learning disabilities for the purpose of the Law (id. § 1).

The RSLD Amendment Law requires the Minister of Education to issue guidelines for the adoption of recognized methods of assessment of learning disabilities and for the licensing of qualified assessors (RSLD Amendment Law § 4A). The RSLD Amendment Law further amends provisions on the qualifications of professionals that are authorized to assess learning disabilities by establishing minimum training requirements for qualification for a license to carry out such assessments. Among those who may qualify for accreditation as assessors of learning disabilities are psychologists registered as experts under the Psychologists Law, 1977-5737 (SEFER HAHUKIM (Book of Laws, Official Gazette) 5737 No. 857, p. 158, as amended); holders of Masters degrees in the field of learning disabilities; physicians specializing in certain areas such as pediatrics, neurology, or psychiatry; occupational therapists; and communication clinicians with Master’s degrees in communications fields such as occupational therapy and communications disabilities or other approved fields (RSLD Amendment Law § 4).

The RSLD Amendment Law requires the Minister of Education to appoint a commissioner responsible for implementation of the Law through steps including issuing learning disability assessor licenses. The issuance of assessors’ licensing requires receipt of recommendations from a committee established under the Law. This committee, titled the “recognition committee,” will comprise representatives of the Ministries of Education and Health, public representatives in the field of learning disabilities, and representatives of the teaching staffs at institutions for higher learning. The recognition committee is tasked with evaluation of requests for assessor licenses (id. § 5, amending § 7B of the RSLD Law).

The RSLD Amendment Law establishes an additional body, a “committee of experts” that will work directly with the Minister of Education and the commissioner to periodically advise them on issues related to implementation of the Law, including learning disability assessment methods and procedures, as well as on the necessary qualifications for licensed assessors (id.).

Implementation of the RSLD Amendment Law will commence on February 1, 2015 (RSLD Amendment Law § 7).