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August 2011

17 August 2011

Newspaper Article by Ryukyu Shinpo

DPI Supports the Disabled People of the Affected Areas

The 27th Japan National Assembly of Disabled People’s International (DPI, Chairperson, Satoru Misawa) started at the Jichi-Kaikan of Naha on 18th.  It is the first assembly held in Okinawa.  As part of the 2011 action policies, special subjects concerning the support for the affected areas of the Great East Japan Earthquake were discussed.  It was approved that through the “Relief Headquarter for Persons with Disabilities of Tohoku-Kanto Great Earthquake” which DPI had taken the lead in launching, (1) to establish a support system through the Focal Relief Center for the Persons with Disabilities in the affected areas, (2) to secure evacuation centers for the people with severe disabilities who evacuate voluntarily due to the accident of nuclear plant, (3) to ensure participation in planning of the reconstruction program of the affected areas (4) to deliver petitions to the government in collaboration with other organizations.

At the assembly, some serious situations that has become apparent after the disaster have been reported.  For example, there were considerable delay in confirming the safety of persons with disabilities who were cared primarily by their family members who did not have strong network within the community, the poorly-managed evacuation plan by the government that lacked consideration for the person with disabilities and the planned energy blackouts which could jeopardize the life of those with ventilator users.

It was also approved that the action policies of the 2011 include the activities for the establishment of the Disability Discrimination Act and the promotion of the establishment of comprehensive Welfare Law in order to ensure community support system .

The second day of the assembly will start at 9:30 at the same venue.  The major event, National Assembly, and various committee meetings will be held until 4:30.
(Ryukyu-Shinpo, June 19, 2011)

Photo:Many people gathered to sit on in the meeting


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01 August 2011

Report from a volunteer

This is a report by a volunteer who went to the Focal Relief Center IWATE from June 13th through 18th.

[Report on the actual support activities]
At the time I joined the Focal Relief Center IWATE, they were providing support in coastal area of Iwate Pref. for the people with disabilities living in shelters, temporary housing or private homes that barely survived.

There were mainly two ways to support. One way was to find out the needs in the current difficult situation and to build a relationship with them so that we can provide specific and continuous livelihood support.

For example, we accompanied the person with a developmental disability in the shelter and provided livelihood support.  We spent time together going for a walk, shopping at a nearby store and so on.

People in the shelter are surrounded by the same people 24/7. So it seemed that they needed some outsiders like us, volunteers, to spend time with them for a change and such activities might lower the stress level even though it was only for a short time.

The person with developmental disability and their unique behaviors and life styles in such a closed environment had an impact on relationships with others and in some cases caused more frictions.

The other way to support was to visit shelters and temporary houses to identify specific needs like the ones mentioned earlier.
Temporary housing comes with standardized equipment, toilets, bathtabs and those are not tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities.

We talked with a person who was living independently in his accessible home before the earthquake is now living in the temporary housing. He couldn't even go to the toilet without assistance and this has put a great burden on his wife, so they both are going through a hard time.

[Reflection on the support activities]
It was only about a week or so, but I learned about the difficult situation people with disabilities were in, in particular those in the shelters or the temporary housing which I visited to assess the situation.  There is a wide gap in terms of welfare service between rural areas and urban areas.  I came to know the difference on how the persons with disabilities are treated depending on where they live.  I believe it's imperative to rebuild the welfare services for persons with disabilities in the future reconstruction process.

The support activity at the disaster hit area seriously requires prompt actions.  I could not even imagine the difficulty faced by people with disabilities at shelters in situations that they could not voice their needs or problems while they are enduring.

In the meantime, I also felt the need of calmly evaluating their life situation even before the quake. The welfare systems in this country may not solve this problem easily in these severe situations, especially with financial limitations, however, if there is such a great difference in the availability of services between different geographical locations, the quality of life (QOL)for people with disabilities will also be quite different.

To bring such social change, I felt it's absolutely necessary for the people with disabilities themselves to voice their opinions in the process of reconstruction forward.

(Male, a worker at a organization for the disabled persons, a nurse)

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