Monday, April 25, 2016

Monster Salvage Ethnography Post About Recent Disability Issues in Japan

Record 453,000 people with disabilities working for firms in Japan

From The Japan Times, 11/27/15.

A record 453,000 people with disabilities were working for companies in Japan as of June 1, up 5.1 percent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Friday.

The number of disabled workers hit a record high for the 12th straight year, the ministry said in a report.

The proportion of workers with disabilities in overall private-sector workforces stood at 1.88 percent, up 0.06 percentage point.

Under a law aimed at promoting employment of people who have disabilities, Japanese companies are obliged to employ disabled workers so that they account for at least 2 percent of the firms’ overall workforce.

The proportion of private-sector companies meeting the 2 percent target came to 47.2 percent, up 2.5 points.

An increasing number of companies, especially large firms, have become aware of the importance of hiring people with disabilities, a ministry official said.

The share of disabled workers in the corporate workforce stood at 2.09 percent for companies with 1,000 or more employees and 1.89 percent for firms with 500 to 999 employees.


25% of Japan’s disabled have trouble making ends meet

From The Japan Times, 2/16/16.

At least 1 in 4 disabled people in Japan has difficulty making ends meet, with the poverty rate running twice the average of nondisabled individuals, according to a study led by a Keio University professor.

Atsuhiro Yamada’s team studied the results of a 2013 government survey on people’s lives to identify the relative poverty rate for people with disabilities and found that the rate is high here compared with that of other developed nations.

Relative poverty is measured based on household disposable income. The percentage reflects those living in households with an income below 50 percent of the national median level.

The researchers say the high poverty rate reflects the fact that there are fewer job opportunities for disabled people and that they earn lower wages. They also reflect the lower pension benefits available in Japan for such people compared with other advanced countries.

Yamada said the findings underscore the “seriousness” of poverty among disabled people in Japan and called for measures to promote employment for them and their families to help them escape poverty.

The study covered people who said in the government survey they needed help or had to be watched over because of disabilities or loss of physical abilities.

The poverty rate of disabled people in their 20s and 30s stood at 28.8 percent, while the figure came to 26.7 percent for people in their 40s and 27.5 percent for those aged between 50 and 64.

As for people with no disabilities, the comparable figures were 13.8 percent, 13.4 percent and 14.6 percent.

The government has compiled poverty figures for the population as a whole and for children under the age of 18. According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the overall rate was 16.1 percent in 2012.


Badges for ‘invisible disabilities’ catching on

From The Japan Times, 6/2/14.

Patients with hidden physical impediments — internal conditions not immediately recognizable by others — are increasingly wearing badges as they try to increase awareness of the difficulties they face.

“In all my life, I have never once been able to run,” said Nobuyo Shirai, 45, an activist who has a serious heart ailment and is registered as disabled.

Shirai visits a large hospital in Tokyo from her home in Saitama Prefecture once a month, but the one-hour train ride is tough because she is physically weak.

It is a huge ordeal when she cannot get a seat. But it is even more painful when other passengers glare at her for taking a priority seat designated for elderly and disabled passengers, she said.

People with invisible impediments can be those with heart, kidney and liver conditions. Like people with visible physical disabilities or visual and hearing problems, they are eligible for physical disability certificates.

Figures from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry show there were an estimated 930,000 patients with internal ailments as of 2011. They accounted for 24 percent of all certificate holders, a number surpassed only by people with limb disabilities.

To enhance public awareness, Shirai’s non-profit Heart Plus organization created a “heart plus” symbol in 2003 to signify an internal ailment.

People with invisible impediments used to have no way to indicate their needs, Shirai said. “People who have had ostomies would get yelled at for using the toilets for the disabled,” she said.

The mark is winning public recognition. Five years ago, Kitakyushu City Hall began placing heart plus stickers on priority seats on trains, buses and other public transport and providing badges with the mark to those who wish to wear one.

Eriko Yoshida, an associate professor at University of Nagasaki, surveyed 471 people with internal impediments last year and found that 52 percent of the respondents reported being in need of assistance or support.

Fifty-four percent said they need assistance or support even with such household chores as cooking and cleaning. A further 42 percent cited daily shopping, with a similar number saying they needed help to make hospital visits or commute to work or school.

Even people who said they needed no help may in fact be struggling, Yoshida said.

Author Sarasa Ono thus developed an “invisible impediment badge” to help people with internal ailments discuss their difficulties with others.

Ono, who suffers from an intractable immune-system condition, writes about people who receive insufficient support because of shortcomings in public assistance.

The badge, which costs ¥350, has received 30,000 orders, Ono said, with interest both from patients with chronic diseases, developmental difficulties and mental ailments, and their families.

“People need the courage to talk about their own impediments,” Ono said. “I hope they don’t feel alone, because everyone with a badge is in the same situation.”


Deaf community hopes 2020 Olympics a ‘game-changer’ for better social inclusion

From The Japan Times, 11/4/15.

Peggy Prosser was sitting in front of a travel agent in Japan when she was abruptly informed that she would not be able to fly back to the United States to visit her family because she is deaf.

When Prosser sat down with him, she had written out her itinerary and given it to him.

Initially he had assumed it was because she couldn’t speak Japanese, but when it became clear that she was deaf, he wrote on a piece of paper that flying was not an option as she would be unable to follow safety instructions.

To Prosser this was nonsense — after all, she had come to Japan by air — and definitely not part of any guidelines for dealing with deaf people. It spoke more to the ignorance of the travel agent than anything else. She finally got her tickets after the agent talked to a supervisor, but the incident left a bad aftertaste.

That was in 1993. But even now, Prosser believes discrimination against the deaf still exists as society is built for people who can speak and hear.

“I do see a lot of things changing for the better and some things for the worse,” said 52-year-old Prosser, who has lived in Japan for over 25 years. “Too often, deaf people are marginalized, forgotten or maybe ignored,” she said.

Prosser went deaf at the age of 5 for an unknown reason. Since then, American Sign Language has given her a new tool to communicate and a new way to interact with the world.

She does not remember how she lost her hearing but recalls the time when she no longer needed to wait for “a big yellow school bus” to go to school just like other kids in the neighborhood.

Living in Japan as a foreigner who is deaf has revealed many challenges. Prosser, who works as a travel agent for the deaf, hopes 2020 will be a game-changer in a society where a lack of understanding of the deaf population leads to audism — or the notion that one is superior based on an ability to hear.

“Access to public programs and services will give deaf people the experience they need to become empowered and give back to society,” Prosser said.

Many deaf people stress the importance of visualizing information as the hearing community often hesitates to communicate in writing, especially in times of emergency. Verbal announcements to tell commuters why a train has been delayed, for example, may not be helpful for the deaf.

Despite positive moves in recent years toward equal opportunities and to encourage people with disabilities to participate more in society, Japan is still seen as lagging behind the United States and European countries.

The U.S., for instance, celebrated the 25th anniversary in July of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which bans discrimination based on disabilities in employment and transportation services, among other areas.

In April a new law takes effect in Japan banning discrimination by government organizations and companies against people with disabilities.

Under the new law, public organizations both at the national and local levels will be legally obliged to give “reasonable accommodations,” or assistance to those in need, so social barriers can be removed, whereas companies are encouraged to follow suit.

Globally, some 1 billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, have a disability, and nearly 790 million are of working age, according to the International Labor Organization.

Japan’s disability employment rate stood at 1.82 percent as of June 2014, a record high for Japan but still below the 2 percent target set by the government for private companies, data show.

“Japan is one step behind” in promoting the employment of people with disabilities, said Sadanori Arimura, a professor well-versed in diversity management at Yamaguchi University.

“The government should aim for a higher target.”

People who have knowledge of disability employment point out one “pitfall” in hiring deaf people. They say that employers tend to believe deaf people are only unable to hear but otherwise can work just like anyone else. That misperception has prevented those with disabilities from receiving enough support in the workplace.

Even if they are hired, the chance of promotion to a managerial post is slim, and there is also a hiring gap between men and women, according to experts.

The inclusion of people with disabilities in various aspects of society is still a work in progress.

In a classroom in Tokyo, American instructor Martin Dale-Hench teaches Japanese students how to describe personal characteristics in ASL.

Offered by Japanese ASL Signers Society, a nonprofit organization, the course is designed to help Japanese students — both with or without hearing disabilities — deepen their understanding of different cultures and train volunteers for the Olympics in ASL.

Dale-Hench, 28, said encouraging Japanese students, especially those who can hear, to express their emotions when signing is a difficult part of teaching.

One of his students, Michiko Akimoto, a psychologist in her 30s, developed her interest in ASL after traveling to many countries, including the U.S., New Zealand, China and South Korea.

She believes learning a new sign language will open up more doors, and someday enable her to offer counseling services to foreigners who can’t hear.

“I want to continue studying and serve as a bridge for deaf people as the Tokyo Olympics (are) coming up,” Akimoto, who was born deaf, said through a sign language interpreter.

Foreigners like Prosser see a need for the tourism industry to cater more to the deaf population, as the 2020 games will likely encourage Japan to improve social infrastructure in coming years.

“I want the tourism sector to invest in tour programs for deaf people in the same way they add ramps for wheelchair users and audio guides for blind people,” Prosser said.


Make new law opportunity to end bias against people with disabilities

From The Yomiuri Shimbun, 4/6/16.

Realizing a livable society in which everyone, whether disabled or not, respects each other’s individuality — we hope the recent enforcement of a new law will provide an opportunity for such awareness and actions to take root among the people.

The Law on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities came into force this month. The law bans administrative bodies and private businesses from unduly discriminating against disabled people, and it also calls for giving “reasonable consideration” to support people with disabilities.

This is in line with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Japan signed in 2007 and ratified in 2014. About 160 countries and regions have joined the treaty.

Under the new law, refusing or limiting the provision of services due to a disability or attaching such conditions as requiring disabled people to be accompanied by someone to assist them is considered discriminatory.

“Reasonable consideration” refers to efforts to remove various barriers the disabled face, as long as the burden of doing so is not excessive.

A typical example is installing slopes for wheelchair users. Measures well thought out from the position of people with disabilities, such as providing Braille materials or sign language interpreters for those with visual or hearing impairments, must be expanded as much as possible.

Simply treating those with disabilities exactly the same as the able-bodied does not mean equality in many cases. Without means of moving and communicating, people with disabilities are limited in their activities. A major characteristic of the new law is that it makes it clear that failing to give “reasonable consideration” is also considered discriminatory.

Serious efforts essential

The new law obliges administrative bodies to give “reasonable consideration” to disabled people, and it also requires private businesses to make efforts to do so.

However, the effectiveness of the new law will be limited if not enough is done by private businesses that people with disabilities come into contact with in their daily lives, such as public transportation and commercial facilities. A positive approach should be taken.

There are as many as 7.88 million disabled people in the country. It is certain that this number will rise further in the future in step with the aging of society. Providing services and products for people with disabilities will not only improve the images of corporations but will also make good business sense.

To deal with trouble related to discrimination, tasks remain to be addressed. The new law urges local governments to set up local councils in which relevant entities can prevent or help solve such troubles.

Although establishment of such councils is proceeding at the prefectural level, municipal governments lag behind. To eliminate discrimination, it is vital to take measures for people with disabilities in the areas where they live.

Nearly three years have passed since the new law was enacted, but it is hard to say that its intent has become widely recognized in society.

The promotion of barrier-free environments that give consideration to disabled people will also bring benefits to the elderly and people with children. Also, the Tokyo Paralympic Games is coming up in 2020. The government should strive to make the new law widely known.


Accommodating disabilities, but only within reason

From The Japan Times, 4/16/16.

Due to his recent sex scandal, best-selling author Hirotada Ototake has decided not to run for the Upper House under the banner of the Liberal Democratic Party this year, but he hasn’t officially said he won’t run at all. Earlier this month, while the scandal was still hot, he went ahead with a birthday party that had been scheduled before it broke. The media reported that he was originally going to announce his candidacy at the party, and though he didn’t, he also didn’t clearly say he wouldn’t run.

Ototake doesn’t necessarily need the LDP to win. He’s famous, and if he does decide to run — either independently or for another party — there’s a chance he can still win. The reason he aligned himself with the LDP was that he thought he would be able to accomplish more with the backing of the ruling party.

His main task is to make better lives for people with disabilities like himself. For the LDP it was perfect, since Ototake’s membership automatically would have given them credibility as a party that supported citizens with disabilities in a society where such support is often considered insufficient, which may explain the media’s cautious approach to the Law on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities, which went into effect April 1.

The regulation, enacted three years ago, seems simple enough. As the Yomiuri Shimbun explains, it “bans administrative bodies and private businesses from unduly discriminating against people with disabilities.” The idea is to make a society where those with disabilities can move and communicate with the same freedom a person without disabilities enjoys. But while the law mandates that private and public sectors alike must “make an effort” to remove all barriers that prevent people with disabilities from realizing the law’s aims, it qualifies the mandate with the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” In other words, there may be circumstances that make it difficult for a party to fully accommodate certain disabilities, but the law is too vague to specify those limitations. Facilities and practices should be made “barrier-free,” but if a business claims it can’t afford to make the appropriate changes, is that an “unreasonable” consideration?

In 2013, Ototake went to an upscale Ginza restaurant and was not admitted because the establishment said it could not accommodate his wheelchair. He took to Twitter with his outrage, naming the restaurant in the process. The restaurant’s response may have been cold, but it was on the second floor and the building’s elevator didn’t stop at that floor. Ototake suggested an employee carry him up the stairs, but that might not be an option for some customers. Under the new law, would the restaurant have to renovate the elevator even if it didn’t own the building?

It isn’t clear how the law would address such matters — an important consideration since there are as many ways of discriminating against persons with disabilities as there are disabilities. As Sarasa Ono, a Meiji University researcher and rights advocate, recently pointed out in interviews, the U.S. incorporated its Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities under any circumstances, into the broader doctrine of constitutionally guaranteed equality, and that equality in this sense means equal opportunity. Ono says that guarantees of equality in Japan refer to something different: In elementary school, for example, all students should have the same books and uniforms and pencils and eat the same lunch, the idea being that no one is treated specially. Equal opportunity here means creating an environment where everyone starts from the same point and has the same chance for improvement.

On the day the law went into effect, the Tokyo Shimbun discussed what sort of changes it should bring about. Pointing out that the central government arrived “late at this issue,” the paper struggles with the meaning of “reasonable accommodation.” The reporter accompanies a 47-year-old woman in a wheelchair on her morning Tokyo commute. When she arrives at Shinjuku Station, Japan Railway staff tell her to wait 30 minutes for an employee who can help her board the train. Once on the platform she has to let several trains pass because the employee has contacted Ikebukuro Station, her destination, and found there is no one available to help her get off right away. It takes her an hour and 20 minutes to arrive at her job, whereas a person without disabilities would normally make the trip in 30 minutes.

JR might say its accommodation was reasonable, but most people would argue it certainly isn’t effective. Fifteen government ministries and agencies are making guidelines for the private sector, and sent notifications to businesses in January asking for feedback, but few have responded, according to the Tokyo Shimbun. There was also resistance to the ADA in the U.S., but over the years people with disabilities successfully sued employers or businesses who they felt did not satisfy its mandates, and as a result a more accommodating environment has been fostered.

The Japanese law simply assumes good faith on the part of the public, including individuals, but it is up to local governments to spread the word. Asahi Shimbun reported last week on so-called help marks, the badges that individuals place on their persons or bags to indicate a disability that may not be apparent. Since these symbols are not unified from one city to another, they aren’t effective in creating a level of social awareness that makes assistance second nature.

But as the JR example illustrates, assistance isn’t the ultimate aim. It’s preferable to have an environment that minimizes the need for assistance, because that is what freedom is about. In the U.S., such an environment developed because people with disabilities used the ADA to assert their rights.

Scandal or no scandal, the Japanese movement needs someone like Ototake, because he’s shown he will fight for his rights. Presumably, he’d fight for others’, too.


Concerns raised over support services for disabled earthquake evacuees

From The Japan Times, 4/20/16.

Nearly a week after the first deadly earthquake hit central Kumamoto, concerns are rising that evacuees with disabilities or ailments are not getting the support they need.

“These people should be separated from the healthy ones, because a person with a cane cannot walk quickly enough to pick up rationed rice balls, for example,” said Tatsue Yamazaki, an associate professor of disaster nursing at Tokyo Medical University who inspected the disaster zone in Kumamoto over the weekend.

“Governments should create shelters for people with special needs, including the sick, the disabled and pregnant women,” she said. “The need for such shelters was intensively discussed after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, but local government officials I talked with in Kumamoto had no idea that such shelters were needed.

“It was only after they were hit by the quake this time that they realized they should have prepared for the worst.”

Yamazaki added that many evacuation centers are packed with people, and municipal governments have turned schools and other buildings into ad-hoc evacuation centers. But because these facilities are not designated as official shelters, they don’t have access to relief goods, she said.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Equality program helping to create awareness of disabilities in Japan"

This is not really a visual anthro topic but it is very important none the less and very under reported. From Japan Today, 4/5/16:

Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the enactment of a law banning discrimination against the disabled on April 1, a program called “disability equality training” has attracted attention from local municipalities and universities in Japan.

The program is aimed at raising awareness mainly among people without disabilities and creating a better society for disabled people, based on the concept that people are disadvantaged by social barriers.

In February, about 20 students and officials of the Tokyo metropolitan government took part in the training program organized by Keio University in Yokohama near Tokyo.

The participants watched a short film depicting a world where non-disabled people are treated the other way around and face various kinds of discrimination. It showed a non-disabled main character being prevented from getting on a bus only for wheelchair users, and facing embarrassment at a job interview.

The training program is being offered by Disability Equality Training Forum, a nonprofit organization based in Tokyo.

Conventional programs have mainly focused on how to assist the disabled, and have therefore failed to make non-disabled people feel the issue concerns them too, said Ryoko Yamazaki, 46, a wheelchair user who served as a moderator at the event in Yokohama.

The new program is aimed at encouraging people to “realize that disabilities disappear if people around (the disabled) change” their attitudes, said Yamazaki.

Stairs are seen as barriers for wheelchair users, but the barriers disappear if slopes are set up. Likewise, barrier-free minds could help put an end to discrimination, she added.

According to DET Forum, its training courses have been held about 60 times across Japan since 2014, with more than 1,200 people having participated.

There are 48 people with physical or mental disabilities who have received 60 hours of special training to serve as moderators for the training program.

The scheme was adopted at the time of the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics for the event’s volunteers.

According to the Tokyo metropolitan government, more than 90,000 volunteers are expected to be mobilized for the Tokyo Olympics.

Yasushi Nakano, a Keio University professor specializing in barrier-free issues, said, “To change society, companies need to change.

“I would like to spread the training program to universities nationwide so that students, when they start working, can take initiatives to help end discrimination in their workplaces,” he added.


But why does Japan need to use the Olympics as excuse for these much needed programs and laws?