"Two Decades" for People with Disabilities: Achievements, Future Tasks and Recommendations for Government's Policies in Japan
Written by Kenji Itayama, Vice President of Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD) and translated by Information Center of JSRPD
"Achievements and Future Tasks after Decade"
For the last ten years, the Japanese government has strived to realize "full participation and equalization of persons with disabilities" and the results are quite successful.
Firstly, there have been marked changes in the attitudes and activities of persons with disabilities themselves and the related organizations. People have begun to come out and participate in social activities, express themselves, and get involved in organizing various activities. As a result, they are now more frequently seen and heard on the streets and through the mass media. Through the activities by organizations for persons with disabilities, people with various disability types have begun to deepen mutual understanding by working together in new fields such as research work on governmental policies and social action. However, there is a constant need for the participation of young people in these activities, and those with hungry spirits and energy are always sought.
Secondly, in terms of legislation and governmental policies, there has been an increasing improvement brought about by the establishment of the Disabled Persons' Fundamental Law, which "examines" conditions restrictive to disabled people, revises the laws on people with disabilities and promotes barrier free opportunities in areas as architecture, transportation and communication. A problem exists in Japan, whereby laws related to people with disabilities do not state "rights" and "duties" in detail and lack in legal and executive force (unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act). This is underlined by the fact that there are still inadequate municipal plans for persons with disabilities to improve their welfare or opportunities in education and employment.
Thirdly, in terms of public awareness and social environments surrounding people with disabilities, "discrimination and prejudices" are generally eliminated step by step. But there are still many problems to be tackled, such as complaints against construction of a welfare facility for disabled people.
Firstly, there should be firm and clearly delineated principles in national legislation. Every law should state "duty provisions" and "penalty provisions" clearly. This movement to amend the present laws has to be carried out in relation with the "United Nations International Covenant on Human Rights."
Secondly, local governments should promote plans to improve the welfare of people with disabilities to enrich their secular lives. Of particular importance is the preparation of "contact persons" in towns and villages before the supporting system starts next April.
Thirdly, disabled people's movements should more actively involve young people in order to bridge the generational gap. Also the establishing of organizations for disabled people at the prefecture level, based on a Social Participation Promoting Center in each prefecture, is sought. Moreover, by studying the history of disabled people's movements for more than 50 years after the war, establishing a "Library of Bulletins issued by Organizations for People with Disabilities" can be considered as one of the possible ways to learn from the past.
Fourthly, the relationship with people with disabilities and related organizations in Asia and the Pacific area should be further enhanced. In October this year three international conferences are going to be held in Japan. Realizing their responsibility at these opportunities, the government is requested to provide more support in the field of disabilities through ODA and JICA. Private sector cooperation is also expected through the education of people and establishing foundations to promote exchanges. The aims and objectives of disabled people and experts in this field must be assimilated and presented at the "Osaka Forum", which aims to build a bridge uniting people with disabilities in the countries of Asia and the Pacific region. Recommendations from "Post-Decade Plan" should be acknowledged and adopted by the government at the "ESCAP Conference at Lake Biwa" in Shiga prefecture, Japan.
For more information about "Osaka Forum", visit http://www.normanet.ne.jp/~osakaf/