Where are Japan’s disabled?

This is the question I was pondering over while driving home from work tonight. With a population of 128 million, more than double that of the U.K, I find it surprising that you can go for days on end without seeing a disabled person.

There’s no doubt that Japan is equipped for disabled people; there’s wheelchair access all over the place, tactile paving for the visually impaired, and designated parking spaces at supermarkets and shopping centers. Trains have room for wheelchairs, elevators have panels of buttons in reach of those sitting down, and you’ll often find ramps as an alternative to stairs.

I wish I could say that you don’t see disabled people because there aren’t any, but that would just be silly. In fact, during my first trip to Japan, I was invited to a summer festival at an institution for the disabled. I got to make my own candy floss in one of those big whirly machines, and we set off fireworks as we celebrated summer. Yep, that was the day I pretty much burned my thumb off on a sparkler, but fortunately I was in the best place to get medical assistance!

Generally in Japan, family members take care of each other. Grandparents help raise the kids, parents are looked after when they become elderly, and I assume, everyone chips in to help with sick or disabled relatives. On top of that, there seems to be plenty of support available to disabled people as this list of information resources for people with disabilities shows.

My favorite TV show right now is “Boku no Aruku Michi“, the story of Teruaki, a 31-year-old man with autism and a congenital disorder that has given him the intelligence of a 10-year-old. It’s a wonderful story of how ‘chicken curry loving’ Teruaki influences people’s lives, making them better people for knowing him. I watch “Boku no Aruku Michi” in tears. Yeah, I’m a big softy, I know. The story has touched me, and motivated me to write this post. I hope it has a similar affect on the millions of other people watching it every week. Maybe like the characters in the drama, they too will be more accepting of people with disabilities, and then perhaps I could answer the question: Where are Japan’s disabled?

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

3 thoughts on “Where are Japan’s disabled?

  1. You might want to take a look at this unique wheelchair lift system http://www.wheelchairaccess.co.uk The System is imbedded into a staircase turning it into a retracting set of stairs that reveal a platform lift for wheelchair access. These stairs can be clad in the same existing material or whatever material the customer requires, from carpet to marble. Internal/External access, perfect even for listed buildings.

  2. Well thank you ‘wheelchair lifts’ for your advert, I mean, comment. I will be sure to recommend your marble stairs and platform lift to all the disabled Japanese I know. Oh, and of course, I’ll be sure to point out that your system is perfect for even listed buildings, which is clearly a great concern among all the Japan-residing, English-speaking, disabled readers of this blog.

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