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English / Japanese

[Department of Social Welfare Science, School of Education and Welfare]
Professor YOSHIKAWA Masahiro

A society in which people can live comfortably even with disabilities. To realize this, we need a perspective that treats disabilities as an issue affecting all people.

Aiming for a Society That Does Not Exclude Anyone

The research topic I am most involved in right now is rights protection. It’s very important to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Originally, my specialty was hearing impairment, so I especially understand the position of elderly people suffering from age-related hearing loss, and I am making various efforts to protect their rights. The problem, however, is that most people are not very familiar with disabilities and try to distance themselves from the disabled. For example, one often hears stories like a plan to build a welfare facility that ran into strong opposition from the local people who thought it would tarnish their image, lower land values, and so on. Everyone seems to think they will never become disabled. In reality, though, ninety percent of disabilities are something acquired through illnesses or accidents, so disabilities are certainly not somebody else’s problem. In the past, welfare was called “measures,” and the government forcibly assigned those kinds of people to various institutions. Now, it’s mostly done by agreement. By exchanging an agreement, the rights of users are protected, but there are some people who cannot sign an agreement because their judgment skills have declined. Supporting and protecting those kinds of people is the starting point for rights protection.

In recent years, more and more countries around the world have been ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. The keyword is inclusion, which is translated as “subsumption” (hōsetsu) in Japanese. To explain this in layperson’s terms, it is the opposite of exclusion, which means “removal” (haijo). In other words, it means let’s aim for a society that doesn’t exclude anyone. Japan is in the process of amending its laws for ratification.

Empowering People to Be Active Even With Disabilities

Occupational rehabilitation and employment assistance for the disabled are becoming important research topics. The keyword here is empowerment, which is the concept of making the actual person stronger. In my office, we conduct employment and practical training, but there are times when a person who has attended a facility for many years gets the opportunity to try something new. I like to have people do what they can on their own, so I never help out right away. That, I hope, will allow them to extend their abilities. For the individual, it is stimulating to go to other places, not just one facility, and it also is a change of pace. There are many things that come into view only on the outside, so it’s also important to get feedback about those results. In addition, I feel the need for more ties between welfare facilities, NPOs, and residents in local communities. Building these opportunities is, after all, the role of local social welfare councils. So I would like them to prepare the groundwork to be able to undertake programs by challenging themselves without worrying about failure and taking the time to do things carefully.

From now on, people with disabilities will become more active in society. There are still people with prejudices, but people will become more understanding if there are more opportunities to come into contact with each other. As a trainee once said to me after going to a facility for the mentally disabled, “Wow, they were all so much fun.” I love the SMAP song “Sekai ni hitotsu dake no hana” (The One and Only Flower in the World). Like that song, I want society to become a place where everyone can feel that it’s OK for everyone to be different and that each person should blossom the way they are.

Profile

Department of Social Welfare Science, School of Education and Welfare

Professor YOSHIKAWA Masahiro

Areas of Specialty: Social Welfare Studies

He studied electrical engineering at university, but he also liked children, so he volunteered at a summer camp for children with disabilities. Because of this experience, he switched directions to the field of social welfare. With an introduction from a professor, he worked in a training section for hearing-impaired children within the university. There, they dealt with hearing aids, testing equipment, and so forth, so his knowledge of electrical engineering unexpectedly came in handy and received a warm welcome. Currently, he is involved in issues such as support for people with communicative and higher brain dysfunction and employment assistance for the disabled.

Interview: KASUGAI Takashi; Writer: MIYAUCHI Kyoko

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