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Illust by Junko Suzuki
Prop Station, a Nonprofit Social Welfare
Organization Supporting the Challenged.

Quoted from
November, 2000


The future of education and work: lectures by two challenged American experts


Ms. Dinah Cohen

Prof. Larry Leifer

The USA-Japan Symposium on 6th Challenged Japan Forum was held on August 30 and 31, 2000 in Tokyo. At the symposium, two American guests, Ms. Dinah Cohen and Prof. Larry Leifer lectured. Ms. Cohen is the Director of CAP, which has developed a system for providing suitable working conditions for the disabled, and Prof. Dr. Leifer is an authority of web-based learning system (WBL) at Stanford University. In the forum, their keynote addresses and related discussions were followed by several discussions by company directors, the central government officials endeavoring to create a new social system, and governors implementing in their prefectures several innovative methods to improve the situation of the disabled and the aged. The forum with 400 participants was visited and encouraged on the second day by Mr. Hiranuma, the Minister of International Trade and Industry.
This report is mainly focused on Cohen's and Leifer's lectures.

The main theme of this CJF was 'Let's be proud: the proposals from the challenged about utilizing IT for learning and working CHK' The theme was conceived Nami Takenaka, the representative of Prop Station, who has been impressed by Cohen's ideas and attitude. Learning about CAP from Cohen, she questioned her why the Department of Defense eagerly employed the disabled workers. Cohen's answer was clear and impressive: the first step of defense of a country is to allow its every citizen to live with pride.

Both the lecturers have disabilities and made proposals from the viewpoint of disabled people. Cohen suffers from internal disease while Leifer has hearing impairment. Cohen also has parents who need assistance for daily life. As their health could change, the organizers had been anxious whether she would be able to visit Japan until she actually left JFK airport to Tokyo. They also prepared satellite conference system connecting Pentagon and the venue of the forum, for the case of her absence. (Discussion between Cohen at Pentagon and people in Tokyo might have been another great attempt, though.)

She, in spite of the others' anxiety, started her lecture with a cheerful 'good morning', waking up the whole audience's attention. She informed them the significance of employing the challenged based on economical and social reasons. Her lecture, with her self-confident presentation, must have impressed the audience mostly from Japan.

Employing the disabled requires lower cost than imagined.

Cohen criticized the conventional idea that 'employing the disabled is expensive', and showed several supporting data.
US government enforced ADA in 1990 to prohibit discrimination in employing people by their disabilities. By the law, constructing barrier-free facilities in public buildings and transport system was switched from a special policy for the disabled to a general development of infrastructure. Then US government implemented a research of the cost for providing individual assistive devices to disabled employees to work as efficiently as those without disabilities. The result showed that 31% of the disabled required no special expenses for accommodation, 38% required from $1 to 500; 19%, from $500 to 1,000; 11%, from $1,000 to 5,000; and only 1% required over $5,000.

Though Cohen herself has used no accommodation, she is offered special machinery as a manager of a division, which requires higher expenses than accommodation for the disabled. She claimed that employing competent disabled workers, cost for accommodation could be recovered soon.

US government and industry develop technology for the disabled

US Department of Defense has 1.2 million military and 700 thousand civilian employees. The percentage of the challenged workers among the whole employees is unknown, but CAP from its establishment in 1990 to 1999 received 17 thousand requests for accommodation for the challenged workers. The cost for accommodation is usually under one thousand dollars.

In Japan, many of the challenged would be able to do present digitized clerical work by using assistive devices which cost under 100 thousand yen. But usually they face difficulty in commuting because transportation system and buildings do not provide with necessary facility for their mobility. Even though they could commute, accommodating their working circumstances often cost much higher than in USA due to the delay of assistive technology development in Japan.

In USA, such technology has been more advanced than other countries since Section 508 of Vocational Rehabilitation Act was enforced in 1986 to provide that electronic devices procured by the federal government should be accessible for people with disabilities. The law specifies functions of each device.

Makers regard the federal government as one of the largest and most important customers. So they follow the government's guideline to develop electronic appliances. Once they develop such appliances, they can manufacture them for general public at lower cost.

Cohen said that assistive technology is developed not only by makers, but also by the Department of Defense (DoD) itself, utilizing technology for military purpose. 'DoD, for example, has developed a system to fire at a target according to the operator's eye movement. The technology first developed for defending the country then can be applied as an input device for the people with disabilities in both hands and feet'.

Such development must require a great investment initially, but an input device applying the same technology could be developed at much lower cost.

With CAP's assistive technology, 70% of the efficient, challenged employees have been promoted.

With advanced assistive devices for the disabled, many federal government departments of the have tried to employ the disabled. The federal government officially call for job applicants through CAP and the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped (PCEH) collaboratively interview disabled students at 160 colleges in USA. They make a database on the interview, and US departments and agencies employ internship students with disabilities for two months during the summer vacation.

This short-period experience offers an opportunity to the students to know how they can work, and to the managers to work with disabled people. They usually have a good experience, and managers' attitude against employing disabled people changes.

Cohen also reported that 70% of disabled employees who have assisted by CAP's accommodation program have been promoted.

It is important that American employers consider that it is more profitable for themselves to employ efficient workers regardless of their disabilities, and to accommodate working conditions for disabled, efficient workers. In Japan, though a law provides the obligation of companies to employ the disabled at a certain rate, few of the disabled employees have been promoted. The reason is not Japanese disabled employees are less efficient than American counterparts. The most important factor is that the working conditions are still unsuitable for Japanese employees to work as efficiently as other workers without disabilities. Employers' awareness is still low and regard the problem as disabled workers' inefficiency.

US government, while the situation in Japan is getting behind, started a remote-working system, SOHO using advanced communication device. Cohen introduced a case of a single mother of six children, who was diagnosed as cerebral tumor and expected to live three months. Cohen and other CAP members fulfilled her wish to work from home, and the single mother lived longer than the first diagnosis by one year.

'The reason', Cohen said, 'was that she did not stay at home only waiting for her death but continued working as she wished. Her way of living is our ideal model. She proved her efficiency at home using her experience. I am proud of her, who worked proudly until she died'.

CAP Director agrees with Prop's idea of 'Making the challenged taxpayers!'

Why does US government eagerly support the disabled employees? They follow ADA, which prevents discrimination based on disabilities in employing workers. DoD also bear responsibility for injured and disabled soldiers. But they regarded most highly the same issue as that in Japan, the highly aged society in the future.

Cohen told us that the average age of American workers is 47 at present, and will become higher. Managers who have never worked with disable workers will at least one such worker in ten years.

Cohen also referred to the future social leaders and ideal society. She insisted that the leader should know how to utilize IT efficiently for the disabled. The disabled include women and minority races. The leader of tomorrow should understand such people.

'Anyone can be disabled tomorrow, but no one knows when and how. Christopher Reeve, the actor of "Superman", for example, was thrown headfirst from his horse in an accident in 1995 that broke his neck and left him paralyzed. The managers at government and companies should understand this and endeavor for employing disabled workers'.

'Regardless of disabilities, it is better to offer a person a job spending $1,000 a year than to leave a person without a job. Then the person will not only spend the tax, but also pay tax. 75% of the disabled are willing to work. Why don't you use so many potential workforces?'

The last paragraph coincidences the slogan of Prop Station's idea 'Making the society where the challenged can become taxpayers!' Nami Takenaka, the representative of Prop Station implies in the slogan 'to regain pride of the challenged as supporting members of the society', which is very similar to Cohen's idea, who also has a disability. Lastly, she made an impressive statement, 'I have pride in myself as it is'.

Disabilities stimulate collaborative work using Web.

To compete efficiency with those without disabilities, the disabled people would need, besides inexpensive assistive technology and employment support using such technology, the same level of education as others. In Japan, however, only a few colleges and technical schools have facility to accept disabled students. Some people study through education by correspondence, with less opportunity to discuss with other students or to work collaboratively.

Prof. Leifer, Director of the Stanford University Learning Laboratory introduced us web-based learning, which will improve the education opportunity for disabled students.

The research at the laboratory, according to Leifer, is like a technology in human mind. They develop learning methods in which students do not have to adjust themselves to the learning system, but the system is adjusted for each student. The education system has been changed greatly using the Web.

In this program, the lecturer appears on the student's computer display. Students learn at any time, in any place, and at their desirable speed.

The system may seem as education by correspondence using the Internet, but the researchers expect more. Leifer said that their dream is to digitize the classroom to be shared by all the students over the world accessing from different time and place. Then students from over the world will be able to discuss and work collaboratively on the Web as if they learn in one room.

Stanford University has already implemented such learning system in cooperation with a Japanese college using project-based learning (PBL) method. American and Japanese students in small groups discuss and give ideas to solve one problem.

Leifer introduced several cases using the learning system for education or job where the disabled people have equal opportunity.

'The challenged need mutual communication to attain a goal together. They may ask a teacher or an expert for help, but without help, they can find the answer by searching for necessary information and discussing. Web makes it possible'.

In an international PBL, difference of languages may bother even people without disabilities. But Leifer insisted that different languages would rather give better results.

'In our research, sometimes joint studies done by researchers from different countries using different languages give better results than those conducted by researchers in a same laboratory speaking a common language. Why? Perhaps because people become more careful in communication if they do not know each other well and do not speak the same language. For example, they clarify the problems in writing and try to communicate always assuming what the others may consider. This makes a joint study more effective'.

Communication will give better results if you make efforts to tell something as much as possible to someone regardless whether you, the other, or the both have physical disability and whatever the disability is. Leifer himself has hearing impairment. His lecture with a thorough observation and consideration of communication problem might be the result from the fight against his own disability.

he declaration for the 6th USA-Japan Symposium
on Challenged Japan Forum 2000

We have held two-day forum on August 30 and 31, 2000 in Tokyo entitled 6th USA-Japan Symposium on Challenged Japan Forum 2000. Under the slogan ''Let's be proud'', more than 450 people had attended this Forum. Many examples have been shown, and lively discussion has taken place regarding the new way of learning and employment of challenged utilizing IT(Information Technology).

We are living in a world of ''IT Revolution'' where changes of various social activities are taking place at unprecedented scale and speed aided by information technology. This ''IT Revolution'' has removed many barriers among the social structure and created new person-to-person relationship. Especially notable is that this ''IT Revolution'' brought a possibility of working in the society's front line to the challenged whose social life has been closed shut until now.

At the Challenged Japan Forum, we call the disabled who are eager to work and support other people and the society ''The challenged-one who has been set a challenge by God to overcome certain difficulty'', and has been trying to establish the new social system to realize their wish to work. Since our first forum in 1995, people from business field, academia, government, NPOs, local communities as well as the challenged themselves have supported our activities. They have had a same hope regardless of nationality and organization they belong to. We have gained more and more supporters and extensive relationship with such people.

Where the momentum of this big social movement, including challenged themselves, comes from?
The answer is ''Pride''. One of the most important pleasures of working is not financial independence, but to live proudly as a member of the society. A society where the challenged, who have to overcome many barriers, can live with pride is a society where all the people can live with pride. To create such a society, everyone should endeavor as much as one can and this endeavor itself can be also one's pride.

In this 6th forum, many examples using the advanced devices and systems in USA and local communities in Japan were introduced, clarifying the problems that we need to overcome. We also learned that the latest IT development to support the challenged is changing minutes by minutes. Now, just before the 21st century, time has ripped for creating a new society where the challenged can work regardless of their disabilities.

Here we would like to present our declaration for the 6th USA-Japan Symposium on Challenged Japan Forum 2000.

(1)We will continue our efforts to create a new social system where the challenged can work regardless of their disabilities.
(2)By utilizing the result of this forum for more discussion at the organization that we belong to such as private company, government, research and educational institution, NPO, and local community, we will propose and take action for improvement.
(3)We will analyze the new social system from both financial and mental aspects to create a society where everyone can live with pride.

The USA-Japan Symposium on 6th Challenged Japan Forum

At the discussion following Cohen's lecture, discussants found many of CAP's implements instructive. Chaired by Prof. Ikuyo Kaneko, Keio Univ.

CD-ROM produced by Prop Virtual Studio was shown. Ikutoshi Yoshida, Keiai, Ishida, Mitsuhiro Kaimoto from left.

Discussion following Leifer's lecture. Shin Yasunobe at rightmost was a previous official at MITI and is Director at Stanford Japan Center now. Prof. Osamu Sudo, Univ. of Tokyo chaired (leftmost).

Kazuo Seike, President of Research association of the work of persons with severe disabilities, at discussion. He insisted that seriously disabled people also need mental support, and expected the Web's future possibilities.

Session 3 'Top executives should change the situation now'

Chaired by Makoto Naruke, President, Inspire Co., Ltd. Discussants were: Minako Nishijima, Deputy Director, Labor Legislation Division, Japan Federation of Employers' Association; Osamu Sudo, Univ. of Tokyo; Shin'ichi Ata, CEO, Microsoft Co., Ltd.; Masao Tejima, President,macromedia Co., Ltd.; Shigeru Ikeda, President, NTT-ME Co., Ltd.; Takafumi Kanamaru, President, Future System Consulting Co., Ltd.; and Nami Takenaka, Representative, Prop Station (from left).

Session 4 'Regional reports and prospects on learning and working by the challenged'

(Left) Masao Okuno from and Yasuaki Nakajima presented a network of schools for disabled students in Osaka created collaboratively with Prop Station. The network is expected to open new possibilities to the students and teachers.
(Center) Koji Nakauchi, Prop Station's engineer and wheelchair user, visited every school for disabled students before creating the network. He pointed that teachers should learn and recognize the use of IT in education.
(Right) Toru Tanii, himself is wheelchair user, began activity last year as Pep-Com, a non-profit supported by Mie Prefecture to assist the challenged to find employment. He also established Integral Co., Ltd. with a support by Naruke's new company. Kazushige Fujikawa at Mie Prefectural Government discussed the development of information infrastructure in Mie.

Session 5 'Proposal by the challenged: Creation of a new social system and policy prospects'

Chaired by Hiroshi Suzuki, Keio Univ., panelists discussed their efforts for improving the social system for the challenged. Discussants were: Ken Terawaki, Manager, Minister's Secretariat, Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture; Yukiko Sakamoto, Councilor, Minister's Secretariat, Ministry of Labor; Akira Tsujioka, Head, Consumer Policy Division, Ministry of Transport; and Hisakazu Oishi, Manager, Road Bureau, Ministry of Construction.

Takeo Hiranuma, the Minister of International Trade and Industry visited the symposium venue to request the participants' cooperation for developing IT.

Session 6 'Proposal for creating new local communities with the challenged'

Three governors participated in the discussion (upper, from left): Shiro Asano, Governor of Miyagi pointed several important items he learned at the symposium and found applicable in Miyagi; Masayasu Kitagawa, Governor of Mie invited audience to next CJF to be held in Mie; and Hiroya Masuda, Governor of Iwate expressed his wish to utilize IT for development of rural districts. Two governors gave video messages: Daijiro Hashimoto, Governor of Kochi (lower, right) pointed that it is important to relate information to regional culture; Yoshinobu Ishikawa, Governor of Shizuoka considers the way to cooperate with nonprofits who will play a more important role in the future society.

Volunteer typists input the summary of lectures and discussions, which were screened overhead for people with hearing disabilities.

The number of audience was over 450. A large screen over the stage facilitated the participants in a distance to know the expression and atmosphere of discussants. (provided by Ginza Sakuraya)

Exhibition in the hall. Photographs of Prop Station's activities and the works by Prop Virtual Studio members delighted participants between sessions.

Key persons of CJF: Prof. Osamu Sudo, Univ. of Tokyo, convenor of CJF; Prof. Keiko Kiyohara, Tokyo Univ. of Technology, vice-convenor of CJF; Prof. Ikuyo Kaneko, Keio Univ.; Nami Takenaka, representative of Prop Station.

Question by a participant.
Takenaka enjoys talking with foreign reporters.

Taro Shanghai, a performer from Yoshimoto Kogyo amused participants.

Hanako Oshima, singing at the opening of the party. She is a daughter of Kyu Sakamoto and hopes to enjoy singing with the challenged.

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