Photos: Lawmakers with disabilities push for inclusive laws in Japan

The first lawmakers with severe disabilities to serve in Japan's parliament entered at a time when Japan is working to better accommodate people with disabilities ahead of the 2020 Paralympic Games. Now, they want to use their platform to end the "invisibility" of people with disabilities and build a more inclusive society. Japan's government says there are 9.63 million people with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities in the country, accounting for more than seven percent of the total population.

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST 10 Photos
1 / 10
Japanese lawmaker Eiko Kimura, 54, is paralysed from the neck down except for one hand, after suffering a childhood injury. After being elected last year to the upper house of parliament, she is pushing for more integration of people with disabilities, driven by the memory of a childhood in a carehome -- where she sometimes felt she belonged to a different world than able-bodied people. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

Japanese lawmaker Eiko Kimura, 54, is paralysed from the neck down except for one hand, after suffering a childhood injury. After being elected last year to the upper house of parliament, she is pushing for more integration of people with disabilities, driven by the memory of a childhood in a carehome -- where she sometimes felt she belonged to a different world than able-bodied people. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
2 / 10
“My image of people with no disabilities was that they are the people who are on television,” Kimura told AFP in an interview. A society that does not help disabled people ends up effectively hiding them, she believes. “Going to school or working is very important if you want to join society,” she said. “Being deprived of it is why we are invisible in society.” (Shutterstock)

“My image of people with no disabilities was that they are the people who are on television,” Kimura told AFP in an interview. A society that does not help disabled people ends up effectively hiding them, she believes. “Going to school or working is very important if you want to join society,” she said. “Being deprived of it is why we are invisible in society.” (Shutterstock)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
3 / 10
Fellow lawmaker Yasuhiko Funago (top, R) has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), meaning he cannot speak, and communicates by blinking to his carer or operating a computer system with his mouth. But he is demanding to be heard in the fight to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Japan. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

Fellow lawmaker Yasuhiko Funago (top, R) has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), meaning he cannot speak, and communicates by blinking to his carer or operating a computer system with his mouth. But he is demanding to be heard in the fight to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Japan. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
4 / 10
“I was a corporate soldier before I had ALS and had hardly any opportunities to have contact with people with disabilities,” Funago told a committee in November. “I had no idea how people with disabilities or illness were living,” he said in the remarks read by his parliamentary aide. Such “ignorance” leads to “prejudice and discrimination”, the 62-year-old warned. (Shutterstock)

“I was a corporate soldier before I had ALS and had hardly any opportunities to have contact with people with disabilities,” Funago told a committee in November. “I had no idea how people with disabilities or illness were living,” he said in the remarks read by his parliamentary aide. Such “ignorance” leads to “prejudice and discrimination”, the 62-year-old warned. (Shutterstock)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
5 / 10
Both lawmakers -- who ran on the ticket of the small Reiwa Shinsengumi opposition party -- rely on carers for support. Their election highlighted a legal loophole that makes it hard for disabled people to work in Japan: the state pays for carers only if the disabled person is not employed or in school. That can mean disabled people simply cannot afford to work because the cost of private help would exceed their salaries. (Shutterstock)

Both lawmakers -- who ran on the ticket of the small Reiwa Shinsengumi opposition party -- rely on carers for support. Their election highlighted a legal loophole that makes it hard for disabled people to work in Japan: the state pays for carers only if the disabled person is not employed or in school. That can mean disabled people simply cannot afford to work because the cost of private help would exceed their salaries. (Shutterstock)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
6 / 10
The upper house is paying for Kimura and Funago’s assistants, but the new lawmakers want rules changed to help the 11,500 other seriously disabled people who rely on public care. Both use special reclined chairs in the chamber. They have faced some criticism, with a tweet declaring their presence in parliament “a nuisance” that would impede speedy deliberations drawing 49,000 likes and 23,000 retweets. (Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images)

The upper house is paying for Kimura and Funago’s assistants, but the new lawmakers want rules changed to help the 11,500 other seriously disabled people who rely on public care. Both use special reclined chairs in the chamber. They have faced some criticism, with a tweet declaring their presence in parliament “a nuisance” that would impede speedy deliberations drawing 49,000 likes and 23,000 retweets. (Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
7 / 10
Members of Japan's national wheelchair basketball team participate in a group cheer. The lawmakers entered parliament at a time when Japan is working to better accommodate people with disabilities ahead of the 2020 Paralympic Games. Japan’s government says there are 9.63 million people with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities in the country, accounting for more than 7% of the total population. (Kim Kyung-Hoon / REUTERS)

Members of Japan's national wheelchair basketball team participate in a group cheer. The lawmakers entered parliament at a time when Japan is working to better accommodate people with disabilities ahead of the 2020 Paralympic Games. Japan’s government says there are 9.63 million people with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities in the country, accounting for more than 7% of the total population. (Kim Kyung-Hoon / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
8 / 10
The new lawmakers have garnered plenty of support despite critics, particularly from within a community that often feels marginalised. “It’s important that we, those with disabilities, go out and raise our voices,” said Shinya Ando (R),paralysed from the chest down after a motorbike accident in his teens. Ando runs Personal Assistant Machida, a firm which dispatches some 250 helpers to disabled people. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

The new lawmakers have garnered plenty of support despite critics, particularly from within a community that often feels marginalised. “It’s important that we, those with disabilities, go out and raise our voices,” said Shinya Ando (R),paralysed from the chest down after a motorbike accident in his teens. Ando runs Personal Assistant Machida, a firm which dispatches some 250 helpers to disabled people. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
9 / 10
An employee of Personal Assistant Machida arrives at an office in a vehicle that holds a wheelchair. Personal Assistant Machida also employs 15 people with disabilities by providing them with helpers while at work. Ando wants to see inclusion rather than just acceptance of people with disabilities, and said the election of Funago and Kimura was a surprise, but a positive one. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

An employee of Personal Assistant Machida arrives at an office in a vehicle that holds a wheelchair. Personal Assistant Machida also employs 15 people with disabilities by providing them with helpers while at work. Ando wants to see inclusion rather than just acceptance of people with disabilities, and said the election of Funago and Kimura was a surprise, but a positive one. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
10 / 10
Shinya Ando types with a tool attached to his glove. Progress has been made, with accessibility improving in Tokyo and legislation setting quotas for hiring people with disabilities in government. But rights activists say more must be done: the government was earlier forced to apologise for padding its disability hiring data, after regularly failing to meet its own quotas. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

Shinya Ando types with a tool attached to his glove. Progress has been made, with accessibility improving in Tokyo and legislation setting quotas for hiring people with disabilities in government. But rights activists say more must be done: the government was earlier forced to apologise for padding its disability hiring data, after regularly failing to meet its own quotas. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP)

UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2020 03:40 PM IST
SHARE
Story Saved