I spent a couple weeks in Japan during the World Science Fiction
Convention in 2007. After the convention finished, I spent a week
visiting universities near Tokyo to learn what their disability services
Most universities have their barrier free services. These departments
work with the university to reduce physical barriers for access, and
work to create accessible electronic textbooks for their few blind
students. In Japanese, OCR software gets around 60% to 70% accuracy in
conversion. None of the publishers out there will provide electronic
files for students. Note: no services are provided for any mental
One place I visited was the National Rehabilitation Center for the
Blind. They train both people who are newly blind and those adults who
have been blind from birth. One thing the director of Independent Living
Skills Training program told me is that many of the congenitally blind
people (blind from birth) do not know anything about how to take care of
themselves when they come to the program. Apparently, their mothers do
all of their grooming, including combing their hair for them, until they
are young adults. A Japanese friend of mine says this is because the
mothers feel guilty.
In Japan, once the government passes a law about access, companies have
two years to start complying with the law. After that, they can and are
found liable if they are not complying. For instance, one law out there
is that companies larger than a certain size must have a workforce which
consists of 1.5% of their employees to have disabilities. If the company
does not comply, it faces continuing steep fines until it complys. Also,
any accessible change in the environment which becomes law means that
construction companies will not be payed until they have made the
construction project fully compliant, and any errors are the company's
responsibility to fix without receiving aditional pay.
One of the university professors I interviewed told me that they figure
they are 20 to 30 years behind the US, and they are working diligently
to correct these deficiencies.
There are jobs in Japan which blind people are very strongly encouraged
to seek. However, different training institutions send a few employees
to the US every five to ten years or so to learn about more things which
blind people do for employment there. They then return and develop
similar programs in Japan.
After all that, remember that Japan is a fairly insular culture. Outside
Tokyo, Osaka, and some of the other very large cities, they tend to be
very closed off from any foreigners. They tend to structure things to be
less open for non-Japanese in the hope that the foreigners will decide
to leave. I have heard that the part of the Japanese population which is
open to foreigners being around is about 20%.
David Chittenden, MS, CRC, MRCAA
Bryan Peterson wrote:
Oh we sometimes get that here in the US as well Dark. I, too, have met
a very large number of seemingly more inlightened Japanese individuals
(usually teachers), who not only seemed open to the idea of blind
students making the same way in the world as sighted folks but also
seemed fascinated by our methods for getting along. I remember one
time working with a Perkins brailler (although I happen to hate those
things with a passion), and one of them came over and started trying
to read it. Couldn't understand a word he was saying but it was still
Homer: Hey, uh, could you go across the street and get me a slice of
Vender: No pizza. Only Khlav Kalash.
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