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Osaka web series gives voice to the intellectually disabled

by

Kyodo

A group of people with intellectual disabilities has launched an online broadcast to have their voices heard and offer learning opportunities about people with disabilities.

Pansy Media, based in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, streams its program once a month. Many of those involved have intellectual disabilities.

The 50-minute program, which began last September, offers news and documentaries, as well as a feature called “my history” in which a person talks about his or her personal background. About a dozen people work on each episode.

Pansy Media makes use of support from the city-based social welfare corporation Soshien, which operates group homes and workshops.

The plan to set up the station, the first of its kind in Japan, dates to 2001, when a group of people with disabilities who use Soshien facilities, along with staff members, visited Sweden and saw their counterparts producing a magazine and radio programs.

Inspired by what they saw, the Osaka group began preparations for their own project in February last year, backed by the president of a video-production company.

While they were rehearsing for a dramatic scene depicting abuse of residents at a care facility last July, the news broke that 19 residents at a care home for people with intellectual disabilities were killed by a former employee of the facility in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Satoshi Uematsu, who has been indicted in the mass-killing, told police he wanted to “save” those with multiple disabilities and felt “no remorse” for what he did.

In the wake of the rampage, Osaka broadcasters added two lines to the script they had been working on: “We didn’t choose to have intellectual disabilities,” and “Don’t we deserve to live?”

“Media often feature the voices of parents or supporters, but not so much of the people with intellectual disabilities themselves,” said Yoshinori Umehara, 42, a producer with cerebral palsy.

This month, Pansy Media produced another program featuring the Sagamihara stabbings.

Yoshimi Hayashi, the 67-year-old head of Soshien, said she was surprised how cast members changed after they appeared in the programs. They started to speak positively as if they were letting out feelings they had kept inside, Hayashi said.

“It raised awareness for facility staff too, like,” Hayashi said, saying they were able to gain a deeper understanding of what the members were thinking.

In Kanagawa Prefecture, Mayumi Narazaki, who has an intellectual disability, has established a separate support group.

“Everybody wants to talk (about the Sagamihara incident) but there has been no place for doing so,” said Narazaki, 39. “If more people come to know that we also laugh or get angry (despite disabilities), maybe we can abolish discrimination.”

Akira Otsuka, a professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University who studies the decision-making processes of people with intellectual disabilities, said that while there have been some activities led by such people within organizations and within progressive facilities for those with disabilities, care home staff and parents tend to make most decisions.

“What is important is not to push these people in a certain direction, but for supporters to give them information in a respectful manner so they can express their opinions freely,” Otsuka said.