National / Social Issues

Japan Inc. giving workers disability training

Kyodo

A growing number of companies are requiring their employees to learn how to interact with the elderly and people with disabilities. In many cases, the skill set is being added to staff training programs.

Many companies are requiring workers to obtain a certificate, in part due to a law against discrimination that came into effect this year.

With Tokyo due to host the Paralympics in 2020, undoubtedly the world’s biggest celebration of people with disabilities, the wider awareness and understanding such programs generate will be of great value.

Success Academy Co., a child care service provider in Tokyo, recently held a workshop in which employees were grouped into pairs with one person blindfolded and given a cane while the other acting as their guide.

“To a visually impaired person, you should first ask, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?'” an instructor told participants. “If requested, have him or her hold your arm while you walk one step ahead.”

During the workshop, participants also operated wheelchairs and put on goggles and weights to get a grasp of the difficulties elderly people face.

The workshop “helped me recognize many things I hadn’t been aware of,” one participant said.

The idea of certification was proposed by Mirairo Inc., an Osaka-based consulting firm founded by wheelchair user Toshiya Kakiuchi. The initiative led to the establishment of the Japan Universal Manners Association, which began hosting the certification exam in 2013.

Many people still hesitate to speak to people in need of assistance, or do not know how to help them, an official at Mirairo said. The certification exam is aimed at helping change that.

Hiromi Kishida, an instructor in the course, said problems faced by people in need of help can often be resolved by just asking what they need.

Some 15,000 people have so far received third-grade accreditation, attainable through participation in lectures and drills. The second-grade certificate has been issued to about 3,000 people who have demonstrated that they meet the criteria for assisting people with disabilities.

In addition, 300 companies, many of which are hotel operators and retailers, have introduced workshops as part of their employee training programs.

An increasing number of manufacturers, too, are curious about the program in the wake of the law to eliminate discrimination against the disabled taking effect in April.

The measure requires that the central and local governments as well as public schools take “reasonable” action to eliminate barriers for the disabled in facilities and services. It urges but does not require private businesses to join in.