The Diet last month enacted a law to prevent discriminatory treatment of disabled people. It not only prohibits such treatment but also legally obligates the central and local governments and other public organizations to take necessary measures to remove obstacles that disabled people face.
It also calls on private organizations such as businesses and social welfare service corporations to make efforts to take such measures. The enactment of the law, which goes into effect in April 2016, means that Japan has established the domestic legal foundation necessary for Japan’s ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
More than 130 countries and regions have already ratified it. It is hoped that the law will help Japanese society remove the obstacles that disabled people are facing, thus helping to create a society that eases the daily burdens on such people.
Diet deliberations on the bill started while the Democratic Party of Japan was in power. Although the change of government stalled the deliberations, lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito made efforts to restart the deliberations and coordinated with the DPJ. The government submitted the bill as the lawmakers gave a supportive push forward.
The enacted law fails to provide a definition of discrimination against disabled people. But it legally obligates public sector organizations including city offices, public schools and the police to take “rational” measures when disabled people and their family members complain about “social barriers” to them, as long as such measures do not cause too great a financial or other burden. Private-sector organizations are called on to make efforts to meet requests made by such people.
One minor example of social barriers and rational measures to rectify them would be when a restaurant does not have a menu in braille and a waiter of the restaurant reads the content of the menu for blind people.
Since it is difficult for both public and private organizations to know what kinds of situations and acts create social barriers for disabled people and what kinds of corrective measures are needed, the central government will work out a guideline that lists concrete examples of social barriers and corrective measures.
The central government will ask private organizations to submit reports on their efforts to give fair treatment to disabled people, when deemed necessary. If they fail to submit reports or submit falsified reports, they could be fined up to ¥200,000.
According to a survey by the Cabinet Office, whose results are included in the 2013 white paper on disabled people, 25.1 percent of the polled said they would construct a slope at the entrance of a shop only if it did not impose a financial burden, and 6 percent said it could be difficult for them to build a slope regardless.
Since everybody risks suffering from disabilities at some point in his or her life, it is important for all people to help build a society in which any person has the opportunity to live a fulfilling life.