Japan Country Report to the WBUAP Quadrennial Assembly 2012

  • 1. Country: Japan
  • 2. Organization: Japan Federation of the Blind (JFB)
  • 3. Members, branches: ca. 50,000 members, 61 affiliated organizations
  • 4. Board members: 19
  • 5. Blind or visually impaired board members: 18

Highlights Since the Mid-Term Assembly

The devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 affected many blind and partially sighted persons who experienced enormous hardships in the process of evacuation and lives at evacuation centers. JFB called for donations that were then distributed to affiliated organizations to be handed further over to the members who were suffering. JFB also interviewed blind and partially sighted persons who were affected to identify their difficulties in evacuations at times of emergencies, the hardships at evacuation centers, and huge problems they were facing in securing meals, mobility and other aspects of their daily lives. The outcomes were submitted to the national government for consideration when designing their policies and plans on disasters. JFB compiled, jointly with its umbrella organization (the National Committee of Welfare for the Blind in Japan), the three manuals in preparation for the safest possible evacuation and the most effective support possible in the event of disasters, as recommendations for society at large as well as those directly involved including the blind and partially sighted persons themselves; (1) the manual on disaster preparedness and evacuation for the blind and partially sighted, (2) the manual for supporters of blind and partially sighted persons at times of emergencies, (3) the manual for the support system at times of emergencies to assist blind and partially sighted persons.

Part of the welfare service system for the blind underwent change in October 2011. The service system to escort blind individuals when they go out, to ensure their safety and the fulfillment of their needs, has now been standardized all over the country and modified to cover provision of information as part of the escort service. The responsibility of the escorts (referred to as “Guide Helpers”) is now stipulated as covering assistance with visual information while in transport or at their destinations (such as reading and writing on behalf of the blind users), assistance with mobility while in transport or at their destinations, and other assistances including those needed for meals and toilet. With this change, the blind users can now officially receive assistance in getting visual information and other necessary assistances while they go out with the “Guide Helpers”.

JFB established the Research Committee on acupuncture, moxibustion and massage consisting of blind therapists and other experts. The Committee issued a report on the directions and focuses of JFB’s activities and policies to ensure stable employment opportunities in this area. The report will be guidelines and the starting point for specific activities and initiatives in tackling problems.

Initiatives for the CRPD Implementation

Japan signed CRPD in 2007 but has not ratified it for 5 years due to the insufficient domestic legislations. The Disability Policy Reform Committee has been operating under the Cabinet Office for the purpose of domestic legislative reforms, which has been discussing the issue of Basic Action Plans on Disabilities and the Anti-Discrimination Legislation. As one of the Committee’s major step toward CRPD implementation, the Committee gathered and compiled example cases of discrimination and mechanisms for solution when confronted with discrimination, and presented recommendations to the Prime Minister. The disability community will continue to do its best to realize early ratification of CRPD.

 

Major Challenges

One and a half year passed since the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, but many of those affected by the disasters are left in unstable conditions and unable to return to their normal lives. These people today in the affected Tohoku areas still need support in reconstruction and resumption of their daily lives before the disasters. At the same time, those outside the Tohoku area developed their strong awareness about the urgent need to learn from experiences and work on the policies to prevent and manage disaster risks.

JFB is planning to conduct follow-up surveys on the current situations and needs of the blind and partially sighted persons affected by the disasters, to continue activities to support them and advocate with the national and municipal government to realize policies that will assist them.

A local blindness organization in the Tohoku area succeeded in developing a talking Geiger counter that will help blind and partially sighted persons who are forced into evacuation after the Fukushima Plant accident. The talking Geiger counters will assist them when they go out, to avoid areas contaminated with radiation. JFB is planning to request the national government to subsidize this instrument to everyone who needs to protect themselves from the threat of radioactive substances, and to speed up repairs of streets that were damaged by tsunami to secure mobility of the blind and partially sighted persons.

After the disasters, the blindness community faced enormous difficulties identifying whereabouts of blind and partially sighted persons who are not members of any organization or who have not used any blindness or disability-related facility. Our experiences stress the need for a system of coordination among the government administrations, blindness organizations and service providers whenever there is an emergency, and for active exchange of information and knowledge among the blind peoples themselves. The challenge facing organizations is to send strong messages to those who are not members or users in order to strengthen and expand membership or users so that more blind people can come together and share their knowledge and experiences, enjoy sports and cultural events together, which will also enable smooth implementation of assistance in the event of emergencies.

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