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

Quoted from
November, 2005

The 10th Challenged Japan Forum 2005 International Meeting in Hyogo-Kobe

CJF celebrates 10th Anniversary
Realizing idea of Universal Society


Prop Station, a social welfare corporation held its 10th Challenged Japan Forum 2005 International Meeting Hyogo-Kobe in August 18-19 advocating realization of universal society where everyone may support each other playing appropriate role in the community.

The 10th CJF2005 was also a commemorative program of 10th anniversary of Hanshin-Awaji Great Earthquake claimed over 6,400 lives in 1995. The meeting was a great success with participation of cabinet members, lawmakers, governors, mayors, central and local government officials, academic and industrial experts, organizations of the people with disabilities. (By Masahiko Nakawa, journalist)

Declaration of CJF2005 by participants Atrium at Kobe Fashion Mart

Idea of Universal Society derived from Hanshin-Awaji Great Earthquake

"Recovery from the fatal disaster has been taken place by collaboration and great efforts of all people in the community including young and old, men and women, people with and without disabilities. It is of great significance that the 10th CJF2005 was held here in Kobe this 10th commemorative year of the Earthquake." Governor Toshizo Ido of Hyogo Prefecture expressed in his opening speech with his expectation of promotional activities accelerating from Kobe for realizing Universal Society.

CJF has started with hope and aim for establishing a society where challenged people (they call people with disabilities "challenged" understanding that they are the people given challenging tasks) may support their society by sharing rolls depending on their capacity and enjoy independent livelihood with pride. The concept of "challenged" has been expanded to those wider range of Japanese people with or without disabilities, aged, disaster victims, women and children in current aging society with declining birthrate.

Those speakers and participants have become prominent year by year. This year they included four guests speakers from the United States, Sweden and Thailand, two congress members, three governors, four mayors and vice mayors as well as leaders from the central and local government, industrial and academic fields and groups and individuals of people with disabilities. Among them was a unique and powerful government director gave a strong influence and inspired every audience, Ms. Dinah Cohen, CAP Director, U.S. Department of Defense.

The supreme goal of defense is to let all people live with pride.

The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program(CAP) provides assistive technology and accommodations to all Federal employees with disabilities. Nami Takenaka, the chair of Prop Station, met Ms. Dinah Cohen, the CAP Director for the first time in 1999 in Seattle and asked why the DOD was so concerned about employment promotion for people with disabilities. Ms. Dinah Cohen's answer was so dramatic. "The initial step of our defense is to let every citizen live with pride." Nami Takenaka was deeply impressed by her positive attitude and invited her to speak at the 6th CJF 2000 in Tokyo. Her speech again captured heart of leaders participated in CJF2000 such as Governor Shiro Asano of Miyagi Prefecture.

The goal of CJF has been to promote realization of universal society where everyone may share his/her role to support their society.

Ms. Cohen referred to the ADA(Americans with Disabilities Act) just celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. She commented the ADA in detailed areas of employment, transportation, and communication as well as general livelihood of people with disabilities, and how they have been protected by the law.

The DOD has been offering the latest assistive technology and accommodation services to all Federal Employees with disabilities including those aged senior citizens and disabled service members returned from Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, CAP can provide wide range of requests for accommodations and conducts needs assessments to identify the most appropriate solutions for each individual requesting an accommodation. CAP covers the cost of installation, integration, and training for the assistive technology.

As a challenged by herself, Ms. Dinah Cohen closed her speech with great applause saying "We're proud of being Americans with disabilities."

Members discussed the "Universal Basic Law" Back-row from left: Ms. Yukiko Sakamoto, House of Councilors, Prof. Hisakazu Ohishi, Interfaculty Initiative Information Studies, the University of Tokyo, Ms. Dinah F.B. Cohen, CAP Director, U.S. Dept of Defense, Nami Takenaka, Chairperson, Prop Station, Ms. Kanae Yamamoto, House of Councilors, Ms. Keiko Kiyohara, Special Advisor to the Governor, Hyogo Prefecture. Front-row from left Mr. Suporntum Mongkolsawadi, Principal, Redemptorist Vocational School for Disabled, Pattaya City, Thailand, Mr. Michael A. Winter, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Federal Transit Administration, U.S.Dept of Transportation

Ms. Dinah F.B. Cohen, CAP Director, U.S. Dept of Defense, the keynote speaker. "Let's be Proud!"

Members discussing the "Free Mobility Aid Project." Also initiating activities for realizing universal society. From right: Prof. Ken Sakamura, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, the University of Tokyo, and head of the Project, Mr. Michael A. Winter, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Federal Transit Administration, U. S. Dept of Transportation, dedicated in establishment of ADA, Minister Kazuo Kitagawa of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

Government to lead Universal Society Project

There has been progress in Japan since Ms. Dinah Cohen's last visit in 2000. Those initiatives include participation of more government and congress leaders. Ms. Yukiko Sakamoto of the House of Councilors joined a study tour of ADA to Washington,DC in May organized by the Coalition Parties' Project Team for Promotion of Universal Society headed by Ms. Seiko Noda of the House or Representatives, and an ex-postal minister. With generous cooperation and great efforts rendered to the Study Group by the Voluntary Visitor Program of the U. S. Dept of State through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and full cooperation on program planning and tour arrangement by USICD, they visited several Federal Government Departments including CAPTEC at DOD, DOE and DOT. They had study tours and conferences with key leaders dedicated themselves for birth and growth of ADA in those fifteen years.

Ms. Sakamoto is an expert in labor and employment with her long career at the Ministry of Labor, and aiming to adopt a similar law in Japan for the people with disabilities. The study tour group was consisted of government, academic and industrial leaders. Ms. Sakamoto quoted "In the United States students with disabilities can go to school they want to attend with secured supporting systems and technologies depending on their disability while here in Japan they have no choice but going to a separated school for disabled. They are separated until they finish school and go into society. This is why people with disabilities are not included in schools which makes no communication and understanding between those groups. Thus, people with disabilities struggle with mental barriers. We should reform our educational system considering inclusion of people with disabilities. To our regret we are behind the schedule not only ten years but thirty years."

Some legal reforms for people with disabilities have been started. An amended Law for Promotion of Employment for Disabled Persons has passed the session while the Supporting Law for Independence of Disabled Persons was disposed by termination of the session. The latter faced severe criticism as it imposed people with disabilities payment for their medical treatment.

The purpose of those laws are basically to protect those people willing to work and get independence in spite of their disabilities.

Minister Hidehisa Otsuji of Health, Labor and Welfare stresses "We are shifting our policy for people with disabilities from mere protection to supporting them for their independence. We shall submit the bill again into the law at the next ordinary Diet session."

A video message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi "Let's generate wave of challenged !" (Nami's name stands for wave)
Photo: Minister Sakaguchi
Mr. gustaf Strandel of Swedish Social Welfare Research Institute discusses with Mr. Yoshihiro Kaiya, Representative of Japan Barrier Free Association.
Photo: Minister Sakaguchi
From "disabled" to "challenged" panel discussion. From right to left, Ms Mitsuyo Ohira, Deputy Mayor of Osaka, Prof. Osamu Sudoh, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, the University of Tokyo(Chief of CJF),Minister Hidehisa Otsuji of Health, Labor and Welfare, Ms. Yukiko Sakamoto, member, the House of Councilors.

Now, barriers on the road are of vital concern for the people with disabilities. Minister Kazuo Kitagawa of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) participated in the CJF Panel Discussion and introduced a guideline. "The former Ministry of Construction had enacted the Heart Building Law enabling accessibility of people with disabilities and aged. The former Ministry of Transportation had established Barrier Free Transport Law. Those two ministries have integrated to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. An integrated law covering the previous two laws will be submitted at the next ordinary Diet session."

Mr. Kitagawa also introduced its latest project named "Free Mobility Aid Project" jointly operated with the Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory presided over by Prof. Ken Sakamura , Graduate School , the University of Tokyo. The project provides on site information about location and environmental aspects for walkers including people with disabilities by touching communicators set aside streets and buildings in the experimental area. It also provides voice information in several languages.

How capable challenged leaders were included in ordinary society

There was another guest from the United States riding on a wheel chair. He is Mr. Michael Winter, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Federal Transportation Administration, DOT. "I could not ride on a bus or train until I became 27 years old. It is an interesting stage that I'm at a position to control the public transportation if they are fully accessible for people with disabilities. Before ADA was adopted, only 15% of buses were accessible for people using wheelchair. Now, 90% of them are easily accessible. Mr. Winter tried the Free Mobility Aid by himself and found it interesting and practical.

The 10th CJF 2005 made a big success with diversified program and participation by many people from different areas including those challenged themselves from Hyogo-Kobe area proposing themselves with their teleworking fully utilizing their IT communication skills and networking environments. From local governments four governors and four mayors were among the panelists proposing for initiating creative drives for our common goal of realizing a universal society.

What is different at our offices here in Japan is that we do not see any key leaders with disabilities working as usual among other people at important position like Ms. Cohen and Mr. Winter at the Federal Government offices. In the near future we are hoping to see those people with disabilities working around.

However, what they commented on the second day afternoon was remarkable. "It's amazing to see all those audiences remain seated taking notes in the afternoon of Friday. In the U.S., we see few people at conference site." Some one thousand people attended the meeting for two days.

Demonstration on Free Mobility Aid Project by MLIT.
Photo: Minister Sakaguchi
Receive appropriate city information from roadside communicator.
Photo: Minister Sakaguchi

NEW MEDIA 11-2005

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