Japan's Upper House renovates office for disabled lawmakersTOKYO - On Sunday (28/7), the Japanese Upper House began to renovate its chamber for the plenary sessions for the arrival of its newly-elected politicians, Yasuhiko Funago (61) & Eiko Kimura (54).
To welcome the lawmakers, Upper House’s steering committee on Thursday (25/7) agreed to ease the 2 politicians to do their duty. Therefore, a renovation was agreed upon.
On Sunday (21/7) last week, Funago & Kimura won seats for the Upper House. Both were candidates put forth by Reiwa Shinsengumi, a political party formed by Taro Yamamoto. In her campaign speech, Kimura promised to ensure the establishment of a system that supports and cares for the disabled.
Both Funago & Kimura are suffering from severe body function disabilities. Funago is suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease which affects his muscle control since 2008, and Kimura is suffering from cerebral palsy which affects her movement since she was 8-month-old, disabling her from the neck down to her toes.
Both lawmakers have to rely on wheelchairs which are bigger than ordinary wheelchairs, and caregivers are assigned to assist both politicians. Funago’s disease is identical to the deceased Stephen Hawking. He relies on a computer with a motion sensor, specially designed to convey his message through his biting motion.
Therefore, the Japanese House of Councilors was aware of the matter & decided to do a renovation for ease of access for both newly elected politicians.
For the renovation, three seats near the doorway were removed from the chamber to create space for Funago & Kimura. Also, an electric power source will be installed at their seats, so that during the session, Funago & Kimura may recharge their wheelchairs or other medical equipment.
The renovation was expected to finish by Thursday (1/8) right before the extraordinary meeting of the Diet. But, it is not the only renovation. Further renovation will be held before the next extraordinary meeting of the Diet which will be held in the Fall season.
The Upper House’s election was hailed by some activists as a revolution to Japanese laws, adding that it enhances people’s perspective to disabled lawmakers and helps the disabled community. The head of the Japanese ALS Association, Shigeyuki Shimamori, referred to the election of Funago as a landmark that an ALS-stricken person could actively perform in national politics. Funago is the first ALS-stricken politician to assume a seat in the Upper House.
- DISABILITY IN JAPANESE SOCIETY & POLITICS -
This was not the first time for the Japanese political seat to be filled with a disabled politician. In 1977, Eita Yashiro (82) – also bound to a wheelchair – also won a seat in the Upper House.
To facilitate Yashiro’s needs and participation, ramps, multipurpose restrooms, and slopes were built in the chamber. Since then, the Japanese parliament began to be aware of disabled politicians.
For politicians with weak or impaired eyesight, the Japanese parliament provided Braille documents to assist them in attending the plenary session.
For the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics 2020, the Japanese government is thriving to improve infrastructure and facilities for the disabled which is one of the main objectives needed to be achieved before the commencement of the major sporting event.
There are about 9.63 million disabled people throughout Japan. However, the disabled Japanese need more care and attention. The 2016 stabbing incident which killed 19 disabled persons at a care home in Midori Ward, Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan, is proof that the attitude toward the disabled needs to be changed.
Therefore, by the election of Funago & Kimura, it is a great symbolization that the disabled are also the part of Japan itself.