Thanks so much for your informative e-mail. I'm glad there was someone
on here could answer not only my questions on this issue, but clears up
some things I may have said that were perhaps less true than the reality
of the situation.
David Chittenden wrote:
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 are like.
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
David Chittenden, MS, CRC, MRCAA
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