Capability and a New Act to Eliminate Disability-Associated Discrimination in Japan
Hosoda, Miwako (2016). 'Capability and a New Act to Eliminate Disability-Associated Discrimination in Japan' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.
A new act to eliminate disability-associated discrimination (referred to as the new act) will be enacted on April 1st of this year. It was created to reflect the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, established by the United Nations. The new act ensures the dignity of peoples with disabilities while also forcing the central and local governments, agents and companies to eliminate any disadvantages in education, employment, and all other aspects.
The new act seems to promote capability of people with disabilities. However, some people with disabilities critique that information regarding the new act has not been widespread not only among the general public but also among people with disabilities themselves. Moreover, some people afraid that the new act will cause some disadvantage for people with disabilities in financial aspect.
Based on Sociology and Disability studies, two distinct models of disability were proposed around 1990: the individual (medical) model and the social model. The individual model encompasses the belief that people with disability are supposed to make effort to cure themselves and undergo rehabilitation training on their own. The social model, on the other hand, asserts that the social agent is responsible for preparing people with disabilities to participate in the society. Since the 1990s, the academia has insisted that our society transform from the individual model to the social model. The social model has been sought out as a way to increase the capability of those with disabilities.
Although there is no clear evidence of a cause and effect relationship between social policy and the peoples’ opinions toward the two models, since the beginning of the 21th century, the Japanese government has gone ahead and proposed a policy to decrease or strictly control the medical expense for rehabilitation programs. Therefore, it appears that there is movement to decrease the individual model. While it is true that the academia’s goal of diminishing the individual model was realized, people with disabilities have still not been able to receive appropriate medical services and rehabilitation training. Moreover, the social model has not been promoted as much as they had expected.
The reason why many people with disability do not have high expectations for the new act is the lack of benefits that it has had on their lives over the course of 20 years. There is so much diversity among people with disabilities: some have severe physical impairment and some do not, some have heavy medical needs and some do not, some need more social services than others, and the capability varies depending on the individuals. What is needed for people with disability and without disability to seek well-being in such a diverse community? How can we realize the social model without it conflicting with the individual (medical) model? This study explores whether or not the new act will be able to respond and resolve these issues based on the interviews conducted on people with brain injury, chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomylitis（CFS/ME）, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ASL). I would also like to discuss how people with or without disabilities can work together to realize an equal, inclusive society.