Policies for Persons with Disabilities in Japan from the Viewpoint of a Person with a Disability
Born prematurely in a state of suspended animation. Diagnosed as having
cerebral palsy at the age of one. Affected lower extremities are of spastic
Spent my elementary school days in a special school/institution for
children with disabilities. My experiences in the institution :
? Entering the institution was decided by a Child Guidance Center and my parents. I was
informed one week before entering.
? Wanted to bring many books with me, but it was not allowed because of property
? Found name tags with "No. 51 Koji Onoue" written with a felt-tipped pen, sewed on
everything from the jacket to the undergarments.
? Dreadful experiences of a surgical operation and exercises before going to bed (Refer to
? The special school was on the second floor of the institution. We spent 24 hours each
day just being in the institution : "What does a traffic light look like?" "A shopping day"
? It was always emphasized to us that "a person with a disability must have endearing
qualities so as to be cared for by others."
? Some staff in the institution and teachers of the special school who provided moral
support when transferring to an ordinary junior high school Attending an ordinary junior high school
? Upon enrollment – "Now that you are in an ordinary school, we shall not be giving you
any special treatment. Do not depend on the help of facilities, teachers, or other
– "Is doing nothing for me equal to 'no special treatment'?"
? Surprised at a students' general meeting – "Are there this many people?"
? Being carried on the back of my classmate – moving to the music room, etc.
1949 - Enactment of the Law for the Welfare of Physically Disabled Persons 1960 - Enactment of the Mental Hygiene Law (the present Mental Health and Welfare Law)
Enactment of the Law for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded Persons (the present Law for the Welfare of Intellectually Disabled Persons) Physically Handicapped Persons' Employment Promotion Law (the present Law for Employment Promotion, etc. of the Disabled Persons)
※ Policies for persons with disabilities were implemented based on the above-mentioned three laws, but the focus was placed on economic regeneration, and those who were not capable of doing that were left in social isolation.
? After the war, various organizations for persons with disabilities were established and the Law for the Welfare of Physically Disabled Persons was enacted (1949).
= The background of the enactment of the law includes the fact that Countermeasures for Wounded Veterans ceased to exist due to the abolition of the Military Protection Agency in the course of GHQ's policy of the "democratization and abolition of militarism of Japan." In that sense, it can be said that a big aspect of the enactment of this law has to do with the "Generalization of countermeasures for wounded veterans." ? 1960s – High economic growth and "socialization of issues of persons
with disabilities" :
"Law for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded Persons" and "Physically Handicapped Persons' Employment Promotion Law" (1960) – The isolated
institutionalization /rehabilitation policy as seen in the concept of Zenkoku (nationwide) Colony network (1965) evolved into the establishment of Nishikomago Colony in Nagano Prefecture, Funagata Colony in Miyagi Prefecture (1968), Kongo Colony in Osaka Prefecture (1970), National Colony Nozomi- no - sono (1971), etc. In the time of high economic growth, along with the shifting of labor forces creating thinly populated and overpopulated areas, the number of nuclear families became larger. Thus, the issues of persons with disabilities, which used to be hidden behind the support of bigger families, came to the fore. At the same time, since there occurred many incidents of killing children with disabilities and double suicides, the movement calling for the establishment of institutions by parents' associations and others became rampant. (Refer to Material 2)
? The incident of the killing of a child with a disability that occurred in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1970 led to parents' associations demanding leniency in the commutation of consequent punishment. Relative to this, the Kanagawa Aoishiba - no - Kai (The "Green Grass Association") raised the issue and denounced the move, saying, "Please realize the gravity of the fact that a person was killed." Through this process, accusations and raising the issue were carried out from the standpoint of persons with disabilities who were deemed to be "a life that should not exist," and this ideological stance was established.
? Since then, protest campaigns against the Eugenic Protection Law (renamed as the Maternal Protection Law in 1995), which helped encourage abortion of babies with disabilities, were carried out. Also, moves to acquire the right to transport, to struggle against public
administrations in various places were done. Moreover, through this process, "independent persons with disabilities" emerged, meaning that persons with severe disabilities who need full attendance became independent by renting apartment houses in their communities with the help of 24-hour personal assistance (1975). And the movements for enrollment of children with disabilities in nursery schools and ordinary schools also became more active.
? End of 1960's～ Moves to accuse and denounce discrimination of persons
with disabilities progressed.
? Battle against Fuchu Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Araki class
1970 – Kanagawa Aoishiba-no-Kai criticized the move towards leniency in
the commutation of punishment in the killing of a child with a disability
Awareness of being persons with disabilities who were deemed to be "a life
that should not exist" came to the fore, and so their voices started to
1974 – Start of the Tokyo Metropolitan Attendant Dispatch Service for
Persons with Cerebral Palsy (later referred to as the Attendant Dispatch
Service for Persons with Systemic Disabilities)
1976 – Formation of Zenshoren (National Liaison Conference of the
Liberation Movement for Persons with Disabilities)
1979 – Special school for children with disabilities became part of
compulsory education – Protest campaigns against this move spread on a
nationwide scale in 1978.
As we look at the above-mentioned movements in the 1970's, please note
that the concepts of "normalization" and "independent living" which we
hear about every now and then did not come about suddenly, but they emerged
out of the struggles of persons with disabilities against isolation and
discrimination. Please note also the opposing factors that brought about
"Rehabilitation Paradigm and Independent Living Paradigm"
Rehabilitation Paradigm Independent Living Paradigm Definition of Physical impairment / lack of vocational Dependence upon professionals,
problem skill family members and others
Focus of In the environment; in the In the individual problem rehabilitation process
Peer counseling, consumer Professional intervention by doctors, Solution to self-control with self-help, physical therapists, vocational the problem barrier removal rehabilitation counselors, etc.
Social role Patient / client Individual with a disability
Who controls Professional Individual with a disability
Desired Maximum ADL Independent living outcomes
(Gerben DeJong : Independent Living, From Social Movement to Analytic
Paradigm, Dec. 1979)
1981 – International Year of Disabled Persons
1982 – The Independent Living Movement in the United States was
introduced. There came an increasing number of community workshops and
small-scale workshops, where persons with disabilities can exist.
Kyoudouren (Liaison of Joint Community Workshop)was formed.
1983 – Start of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons
1986 – Establishment of Disability Basic Pension System
? Japan National Assembly of Disabled Peoples' International (DPI-Japan) was organized.
Human Care Association (Hachioji, Tokyo), the first full-fledged Independent Living
center in Japan, was established.
1986 – Protest campaign against taxing institutions for persons with
disabilities became strong. Around this time the movement toward group
homes started at the local government level.
In Osaka the Attendant Care Security System (=Attendant Dispatch Service
for Persons with Systemic Disabilities) based on the right of persons with
disabilities to make choices began (following Tokyo, then the system
spread around major cities designated by government ordinance).
1987 – Mid-year review of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons
1988 – At the RI (Rehabilitation International) conference held at
Shinjuku, Tokyo in 1988, we appealed to "get out of the control of
specialists." Then, we assembled for the international solidarity
movement of persons with disabilities and a rally calling for accessible
transportation. (Hereafter, activities for accessible transportation
became an annual event which became large-scale with the participation
of 3,000 people nationwide.)
1989 – Group Home System for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (national government) ; Osaka City Group Home System for Persons with
Severe Disabilities ? Ministry of Health and Welfare established the "Gold Plan" which stipulates policy
objectives for the next ten years concerning the elderly. 1990 – The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was passed. It was the result of a movement by a network of tens of thousands of people who
participated from all over the U.S.
Revision of eight laws related to social welfare – the Home Attendant
Service became a legal service.
1991 – The members of People First, a movement by persons with intellectual disabilities, visited Japan from the United States.
Osaka City and other bus companies introduced passenger buses with lifts.
Home-help service operation manual; "365 day-/24 hour- service"
1992 – Final year of the "United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons"; international symposia at nearly 20 places in Japan
In Osaka Prefecture an "Ordinance for the foundation of comfortable living
environments for persons with disabilities" was enacted for the first time
in Japan (followed by all the other prefectures)
A Guide Helper System for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities was begun
in Osaka City.
1993 – Enactment of the Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities. "Persons with psychiatric disabilities" is included in the definition of the term
"disabilities". "Independence and social participation" are alsob
mentioned. Osaka Psychiatric Human Rights Center, an NPO, accused and
investigated Yamatogawa Hospital (leading to the hospital's closure in
1995 – The National Government formulated the Plan for Persons with Disabilities (a 7-year strategy to promote normalization).
1997 – Osaka City Support Plan for Persons with Disabilities The description of independent living centers is clearly indicated in the plan.
Violation of human rights such as the Shirakawa Ikusei-en Incident
occurred one after another. ? Discussion on basic social welfare
2000 – Enactment of the Barrier-Free Transportation Law. Revision of the eight laws including the Social Welfare Law. Enactment and enforcement
of the Nursing Care Insurance Law.
2002 – The DPI World Assembly was held in Sapporo with the participation of more than 3,000 people from 110 countries and regions.
2003 – There were protest activities for two weeks regarding the transfer of revenues for counseling services to a general account, and the issue
of capping for home care service. The Assistance Benefit Supply System
2004 ～ present – Integration with the Nursing Care Insurance was
discussed. In autumn the "Grand Design of Health and Welfare for Persons
with Disabilities" was introduced. – Movement towards the Law concerning
Self-reliance Support for Persons with Disabilities. Unprecedented
participation in the movement of persons with disabilities as seen in a
rally to the Diet with the participation of 11,000 people.
※ As mentioned earlier, in Japan persons with disabilities emerged as
the subjects of social movements in the 1970's. The International Year
of Disabled Persons in the 1980's helped disseminate the idea of
normalization. However, please note that it was only in the 1990's when
the support of community life/independent living in the actual systems
and services started, and the gap between concept and reality is still
very large and solutions are still being called for.