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Disability in Japan

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-03-14 (Revised/Updated 2010-06-30) - The nation of Japan has a new, long-term program for government measures related to people with disabilities. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World.

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The nation of Japan has a new, long-term program for government measures related to people with disabilities that was formulated on the basis of the Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons which was enacted in the year 1993.

The Action Plan for Priority Areas, which established a strategy for the achievement of goals related to the Long-Term Program over a period of seven years, started in the fiscal year of 1996, reaching its conclusion in fiscal year 2002. A new Basic Plan for Persons with Disabilities covering the years 2003 through 2012 was passed as a Cabinet order in December of 2002, with a new Action Plan for Priority Areas that provides a strategy for the realization of the goals of the Basic Plan during the first ten year term being adopted.

Japan's Basic Plan related to people with disabilities keeps the concepts of rehabilitation and normalization from the New Long-Term Program while declaring the goal of creating a society in which people with disabilities have the same rights and treatment as non-disabled persons, as well as the same opportunities and self-determination to both participate and share in the nation's responsibilities. The philosophy underlying Japan's objectives is an inclusive society where everyone respects the individual differences people have while supporting one-another.

The measure by the Japanese government have their roots in the Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons; they have the goals of providing services that meet the needs of people with disabilities in medical care, pensions, welfare, employment, education and additional areas. The Japanese government also desires to create a society that is barrier-free in all realms of their social structure, to include access to transportation, buildings, and information. Legislation, as well as social systems, need to be formulated among a wide-range of social spheres in order to promote measures comprehensively.

Due to the wide dispersion of policies in Japan, the Headquarters for Promoting the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities was established in the Cabinet Office. The goal of the Headquarters is to ensure that Japanese government ministries remain in close contact with each other to promote measure effectively and systematically. Japan's Prime Minister is the head of the organization, with a staff of relevant ministers. Their effort is one of a unified approach within the central government to the formulation and passage of measure related to people with disabilities.

The Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons which took force in the year 1993 in Japan serves as the base of welfare policies in the nation; it was revised in the year 2004. The revised law sets forth, 'full participation and equality,' as its guiding philosophy, and intends to maintain the individual livelihood and dignity of people with disabilities, stating these must be guaranteed. The Fundamental Law states that opportunities for people with disabilities to take part in Japanese society must be secured, discrimination based upon a person's disability must be abolished, and the equal rights of people with disabilities in Japan must be protected. The Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons also mandates that municipal government both draw up and implement programs which support the independence and social participation of Japanese citizens with disabilities. The Fundamental Law also has provisions related to nursing and medical care, pensions, living support, vocational training and employment, education, barrier-free institutions, information, housing, prevention of the causes of disabilities, and additional areas to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities in Japan are met.

Japan's Disability Statistics

There are some interesting statistics related to people with disabilities in the nation of Japan. As with many nations on planet Earth, the population of people with disabilities continues to grow in proportion with the non-disabled population of nations. For example; the year 1999 in Japan found:

Japan's total population - 126,000,000 people
Handicapped population - 7,510,000 (5.9%)
Physically handicapped - 2,933,000
Visually handicapped - 305,000
limb handicap - 1,657,000 people
Internal-organ handicap - 621,000
Multiple handicap - 179,000

The year 1998 in Japan found 360,000 people being identified as persons with an intractable disease. As of the year 1997, people with disabilities were entitled to in-home services, a short in-home stay to provide carers with a rest, and provision of additional equipment they might need. People with disabilities in Japan are entitled to a small monthly allowance, once they have proven they have an intractable disease, and all of their medical expenses related to that particular disease are waived.

Yet Japan continues to experience some of the same woes related to discrimination that other nations do. In an article titled, 'Is Disability Still a Dirty Word in Japan,' Tomoko Otake states, "Government statistics show that, out of a population of around 127 million, some 3.5 million are physically disabled, 2.5 million are mentally ill and 500,000 are mentally disabled. That's a total of around 6.5 million individuals. Roughly one in 20 people in Japan has some disability or another. The article by Tomoko Otake states, "But where are they? Granted, we see more station elevators, wheelchair-accessible toilets and buses with passenger lifts nowadays. Such facilities are visible, but many people hardly ever encounter those who use them - let alone anyone with non-physical disabilities. In fact, apart from people with disabled family members or friends, most Japanese quite likely live their whole lives without ever interacting with their disabled fellow citizens."

The number of people with physical disabilities in Japan has increased, according to the date on this article, in comparison to the statistics quoted earlier. Japan's Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons has been in place for some time, much like the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States. Like America, Japan appears to be experiencing difficulties with with accessibility and social participation on the parts of people with disabilities, despite some attempts at increasing the accessibility for people with disabilities in some areas of society. Like the goals of America, the Japanese government appears to have lofty goals in relation to people with disabilities, with mediocre results. The article by Tomoko Otake also states:

"More than half of graduates of special schools currently go into what officials call 'welfare-like employment,' channeling them into thousands of state-accredited or privately run rehabilitation centers nationwide. These centers offer no labor rights protection and on average pay a meager wage of less than 30,000 yen per month, making it impossible for the disabled to live independently."

There seems to be an established system for people with disabilities in Japan, one that segregates people with disabilities in relation to employment. One of the stated goals of the Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons in Japan is the integration of people with disabilities into Japanese society. Another is to ensure that opportunities for people with disabilities exist within mainstream Japanese society. The statement made by Tomoko Otake describes a very different situation in actual Japanese society.

Is "disability" still a dirty word in Japan

What does an outside view bring to light in relation to Japanese society and people with disabilities? One view, on the part of Ellen Rubin, reflects on education and people with disabilities in Japan. In an article by Ellen titled, 'Impressions of Japan from a Disability Perspective,' she states, "Separate, but equal. Although students with disabilities are provided an excellent education in Japan, many are educated in separate schools providing services to meet the needs of students with various types of disabilities. There is no question that these students are taught a curriculum as rigorous as in regular neighborhood schools. What is missing is social interaction, the awareness of non-disabled children that their disabled peers have a great deal to contribute to their communities."

The impression one might gain from reading this statement is that Japan views people with disabilities as people who are equal, yet somehow unfit or unworthy to participate with non-disabled counterparts in society. There is clearly a lack of social acceptance indicated in what Ellen Rubin says on the part of Japanese society where people with disabilities are concerned. Bias and prejudice, it would seem, are alive and well in Japan. Ellen also states:

"If more teachers embraced the importance of including children with disabilities in general education programs, students with disabilities would enjoy greater success in integrated classrooms. This holds true in the US as well as in Japan. As more and more students become integrated into the education system, communities will begin to realize that disabled students have much to offer, including problem-solving skills and life experiences."

America is no stranger to segregation by any means. Japan, as well as other nations around planet Earth, continue to struggle with non-disabled perceptions of disability in relation to every aspect of society and social interaction. Every one of the areas approached by the Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons, or the Americans with Disabilities Act for that matter, continue to be ones that society struggles with. Until acceptance on the part of non-disabled persons becomes widespread, Fundamental Laws and Disability Acts will remain partially effective at best.





Information from our Disability News: Japan section - (Full List).

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