Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Yasuhiko Funago, a House of Councilors lawmaker with a severe disability, at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday, and offered him encouragement.

Funago, a member of opposition party Reiwa Shinsengumi, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He and Abe have known each other for 16 years.

According to government officials, Abe offered words of encouragement to Funago, who was elected in the Upper House election in July, while Funago shared his expectations about Abe’s “dynamic engagement of all citizens” initiative.

Funago expressed hopes for the realization of an inclusive society in which all people can fully engage in social activities in accordance with their wishes and abilities.

He communicated with Abe through an aide, who followed his eye movements along a communication board on which Japanese characters are written.

The pair became acquainted in 2003, when Funago was in the audience at a street speech in the city of Chiba, attended by Abe, who was then secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. They have kept in touch since then.

In 2012, when the LDP was an opposition party, Abe and Funago petitioned the welfare ministry for assistance measures for patients with intractable diseases.

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