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A lawmaker with a severe disability has pointed to the need for the country to hold online parliamentary sessions.

In a recent interview, Yasuhiko Funago, a member of the House of Councilors who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, said, “I had to make the tough decision of not attending the Diet session for a few days between late February and early March, amid the spread of the novel coronavirus in Japan.”

“If remote parliamentary deliberations and online voting for bills were allowed, I didn’t have to be absent,” Funago, who is from the small opposition party Reiwa Shinsengumi, added.

“Japan should allow online Diet sessions, including remote attendance,” he continued.

He said that people with severe disabilities were being left behind in the efforts by companies and the government to introduce telework and remote work systems amid the pandemic.

While he and many other people with severe disabilities cannot live without in-home care, such services are not allowed to be offered when the recipients are engaging in economic activities under the current system, he noted.

Funago said that he will work to improve the program so that people can receive care while working from home.

Elsewhere in the interview, Funago said that online classes at schools will be an effective framework for students — who experience large swings in their physical condition due to illness — not just when schools are closed down due to the spread of the virus but also in normal times.

He, however, voiced his concerns over a possible widening of opportunity gaps among schools or individuals resulting from delays in efforts to improve the environment of online education.

Funago also pointed to an issue concerning reasonable accommodations for students with vision or hearing loss.

“I think we should utilize the online class system’s strength and combine it with face-to-face classes in order to create an inclusive education system,” he said.

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