Advisory Meeting on Overcoming the Economic Crisis
at the Prime Minister's Office on March 21
-Nami Takenaka's Statement-
Date: March 21, 2009 9：15-10：47
Place: Conference room on the 4th floor at the Prime Minister’s Office
The global financial crisis has significantly resulted in the deterioration of the Japanese economy. Divided into 10 groups, leading experts from various fields share comprehensive opinions with the Prime Minister in regards to the economic and fiscal policies for the future.
The Summary of Nami Takenaka’s Statement
All people have abilities to sustain a society. Bringing out their capabilities and letting them be able to live proudly are the foundation for forming a vivid society.
Nami Takenaka has made efforts for the establishment of the Universal Society (a society of coexistence and mutual support) Basic Act in order for everybody to be an active member of a society, regardless of age, gender, or disability.
In the United States, CAP, an organization located in the Pentagon provides assistive technology and services to employees with severe disabilities working in government agencies. The organization has worked on a project with the highest scientific technology and won the Presidential Award. Likewise, senior citizens in Sweden who are diagnosed with dementia liven up their daily lives in the community by themselves or with their families through a support system combined with information and communication technology （ICT）and care attendants. If the government makes a social system that allows people with disabilities to work with vigor and enthusiasm and support a society, the system will also let women and elderly put their power to use for the nation. It will be possible for Japan to realize the great efforts that foreign countries have achieved.
Japan is now required to make people with disabilities（the Challenged）become taxpayers by the employment of ICT.
The Statement of Nami Takenaka （from records of the meeting）
Thank you. I am Nami Takenaka of Prop Station. My handout is just a reference for you. My proposal is establishing the Universal Society Basic Act and creating a vivid and dynamic Japan. It can be a bit difficult to understand what I mean by ‘Universal Society’. If it can be explained in Japanese, it’s a society of coexistence and mutual support. It also includes the meaning that all of us exert our abilities, support each other, and create a vivid Japan.
The reason why I came up with this notion in mind is because I have a daughter who has severe physical and mental disabilities. I think some of you may already know about it. Although she is 36 years old she still doesn’t understand I am her mother.
However, she is my beloved daughter and I realized that her existence in my life has helped me in many ways. When I was aware of this, I learned all individuals including people with severe disabilities were capable of sustaining a society and support others and I wanted to share my awareness with the world. I believe someone who has a disability or has a family member with a disability like me should stand up and take action if the nation possesses a way to bring out all people’s abilities to a society. I have put sincere endeavors with many people who have serious disabling conditions for about 20 years for Prop Station and the realization of a Universal Society, which again is a society of coexistence and mutual support.
I have realized how the sense of nationality can influence in understanding the capabilities of the citizens with disabilities through my efforts for Prop Station. I am particularly interested in learning about how developed countries think of these citizens’ abilities and what they do to utilize them for the nations. I have been on terms with two countries. One is the United States, one of the allied nations of Japan and the other is Sweden, a prime example of a country whose social welfare system ranks high among capitalist countries. In the United States, Mr. Obama was inaugurated as the new president. However, I knew America has implemented the policy in order for all citizens to give full play to their abilities and support the nation across racial lines since President Kennedy.
The American counterpart of Prop Station is CAP, an organization located in the Pentagon. The organization has led people with severe disabilities to become government bureaucrats or work in leadership positions in companies through the highest scientific technology developed in the Pentagon, and received the Presidential Award, the highest award given in the executive branch of the government in the States at the end of last year. I learned America expressed the significance of such attitudes and actions for the nation in order to educe the power that American citizens with disabilities possess.
As you know, Sweden is a high-tax country. In Sweden, the citizens are subjected to consumption tax of 25% and income tax of over 60%. However, it is extremely surprising that the people agree to pay tax. I talked to a person who had a severe disability. He worked on his bed by making use of the information technology and paid tax as the same as the others did. With a Japanese perspective, I tried to tell him it must be difficult for him as he had a disability but he told me that he had a right to pay tax. He mentioned the nation had a policy that people with disabilities are proud of being a part of and supporting the society.
In such a sense, I can tell that the people are proud of supporting their countries because they have trust in and satisfaction from the government. That’s what we really need. I believe it’s the most important thing for Japan in the future.
In fact, some staff members at Prop Station work from their beds utilizing ICT. I have also seen a person with an intellectual disability who is able to read only hiragana, enters a lot of words with kanji and works with a calculating chart when he uses Microsoft Excel.
In another case, a person with Autism who is not capable of having a face-to-face conversation communicates with people when he uses a computer. An experimental research shows that individuals with Autism interact much better with computers than with people. Our staff members who cannot have face-to-face communications or verbal communications demonstrate their various abilities through ICT.
Well, Mr. Mimura’s presence here today has really pleased me. Nippon Steel Corporation has outsourced and provided employment opportunities to severely disabled people. There are networks among these people throughout Japan and dozens of them are working from their homes.
Therefore, it’ doesn’t mean we only depend on the government to get help. We, general citizens should create social models like this with people who have disabilities to show their working abilities and then, let industries give support and empathy to the models. I think if the government established a system to help us, the system would make it easy for us to improve work opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
My firm belief as a Japanese is that America and Sweden have been able to protect their own countries through the capabilities of the citizens, and Japan can do it as well. I’m sure Japan could handle this even better than these countries do. Not imitating what they have done but absorbing only the good parts may result in relieving Japan from the national crisis, I believe.
I think our awareness of coexistence and mutual support to a society can be related to creating a vivid and dynamic Japan. For today, I would like to advocate this is not what only the government has to take care of but all of us should be working on together.
“Prop” for Prop Station signifies unified support. A young guy who played American football broke his neck and became paralyzed due to the sport accident. I named the organization “Prop Station” which means sustaining each other because he performed great work skills by making use of a computer in spite of his disability.
In Prop Station, we don’t use the term, disabled, expressing people with disabilities as negative, but as “the Challenged”. The term was coined in the United States and means that people with disabilities have various talents. The Challenged describes a person who has a disability as an individual given a mission and an opportunity to take on whatever their desire. Our slogan is making Japan a society where the Challenged can become taxpayers with that meaning in mind.
Now, Japan has become an aging society with fewer children. All Japanese will be Challenged and face the social situation. However, I believe not only people with disabilities, but also everybody who tries to face problems or difficulties is defined as Challenged.
The materials for the future discussion of the draft law working with many Diet members and government bureaucrats are described in the handout. Thank you.
Additional Statement from Nami Takenaka
I have already mentioned that the Challenged need opportunities to work. It doesn’t mean people give some jobs “to the Challenged”, but a society can be sustained “by the Challenged”. If the Challenged are able to perform their abilities in a society, the society can also take advantage of the power that woman and elderly have. As I told you, the sense of nationality in this case intends to form a society where people exert their capabilities and take pride in being Japanese.
Also, Japan is the best at ICT or IT technology and the issue is how we can take advantage of the technology for people with disabilities. In Sweden, people who have dementia can live alone in the community or elderly couples can live with peace of mind until almost the end through the use of technology. Not only the governmental policy but also ICT technology is extensively parlayed there. I think Japan is probably superior in this field compared to other countries and is able to cope with this issue.
Furthermore, a research on a tool like a cell phone has been conducted for five years. It shows that people who are blind can go wherever they want; work, and be consumers gaining information from audio messages and vibration from the tool. The tool can also provide information with words and drawing patterns to individuals who are hard-of-hearing or speak different languages, and can show accessible directions for wheelchair users. I have taken part in the research and I figured out that a cell phone is certainly becoming an assistive device for people with disabilities or non-Japanese speaking people.
Public work projects mainly have been involved in construction. However, I believe ICT could be utilized for them as well. I think it might be time to change the concept of public works. For instance, public policy should include the use of all people’s skills and abilities in their definitions of what can be labeled a public project. I would like you to know we could develop a tentative situation in public works so that people with severe disabilities can show their talents and get work opportunities.
For the basic information about the meeting, please link to：http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/asophoto/2009/03/21yuushikisya_e.html?ref=rsshp