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Hajime Yamada

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08/31/2015

Information Accessibility Policy Trends in Japan


Professor Hajime Yamada gives us a comprehensive view on the current state of accessibility of ICTs in Japan in light of the population demography of the country. 

Japan's total population is predicted to decline to 86.74 million by 2060 from the 2010 figure of 128.06 million

Image: Japan's total population is predicted to decline to 86.74 million by 2060 from the 2010 figure of 128.06 million.

Population of Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons
There are 3,937,000 (31 in 1,000 in the general population) persons with physical disabilities in Japan. There are also 741,000 persons with intellectual disabilities (6 in 1,000) and 3,201,000 persons with mental disorders (25 in 1,000) in the country. These numbers indicate that nearly 6% of people have some kind of disability.]

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, which published a population forecast in 2012, predicted total population to decrease from 128.06 million in 2010 to 86.74 million by 2060. While the working-age population (aged 15 to 64) is predicted to decrease from 81.73 million to 44.18 million, the senior citizen population (aged 65 and above) is predicted to increase from 29.48 million to 34.64 million. The ratio of the senior citizen population to the working-age population is predicted to be closer to 1 in 2060.

In this presentation, trends related to persons with disabilities will be introduced. But these policies affect the everyday life of older persons. Japan is simultaneously considering the information accessibility policy for persons with disabilities and older persons.

Ratification of the UN Convention and Amendment of Basic Act
Japan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in January, 2014, following an intensive process of amending laws and regulations regarding persons with disabilities.

The Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities was amended in 2011. The current text of article 22 (Access to Information) is as follows[2].

1. The national government and local public entities must take necessary measures such as expanding the use of user-friendly computers and related equipment and other information and communications equipment, increasing convenience for persons with disabilities relating to the use of services for telecommunications and broadcasts, developing facilities for the provision of information to persons with disabilities, and training and dispatching staff to mediate in communications for persons with disabilities so that persons with disabilities are able to acquire and use information smoothly, express their intentions, and to communicate with other people.

2. In addition to taking necessary measures so that necessary information is quickly and accurately relayed to persons with disabilities in order to ensure safety in cases of disasters or other emergencies, the national government and local public entities must give particular consideration to the convenience of use for persons with disabilities being ensured when promoting the informatization of administration and utilization of information and communications technology in the field of public sector.

3. Enterprises providing services relating to electronic communications and broadcasting and other forms of provision of information, and engaging in the manufacturing of computers, related equipment thereof, and other information and communications equipment, must endeavor to ensure convenience of use for persons with disabilities in providing said services or manufacturing said equipment.

The term “in order to ensure safety in cases of disasters or other emergencies” in paragraph 2 was added reflecting on the experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Paragraphs 1 and 2 are obligations to the public sector and paragraph 3 asks for private sector endeavor to meet the needs of persons with disabilities.

Based on the amended Basic Law, the Commission on Policy for Persons with Disabilities was established in 2012. The Policy Commission is responsible for the Basic Programme for Persons with Disabilities, offering an opinion to the Prime Minister or each of the relevant Ministers, and where deemed necessary, making recommendations to the Prime Minister or to the relevant ministers through the Prime Minister. The members of the Policy Commission are appointed by the Prime Minister from among persons engaged in business related to the independence and social participation of persons with disabilities as well as persons with relevant knowledge and experience.

In December 2012, the Policy Commission summarized the Opinion pertaining to the New Basic Programme for Persons with Disabilities, and submitted it to the Prime Minister. Based on this, the government determined the Basic Programme in September 2013.

In addition to the amendment of the Basic Act, the following acts were established: “Abuse Prevention Act for Persons with Disabilities” enacted in June 2011 and became effective in October 2012, “Comprehensive Support Act for Persons with Disabilities” enacted in June 2012 and became effective in April 2013 and “Act on Promotion of Priority Procurement for Persons with Disabilities” enacted in June 2012 and became effective in April 2013.

The Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities
The Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities was established in 2013. The Act is an epoch-making law that was formulated in response to calls from civil society, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities. It materializes the principles of the Basic Act and legally forbids undue discrimination on the basis of disability by the private sector and both the national and local governments, and further imposes an obligation on the government to provide reasonable accommodation.

Article 7, paragraph 2, of the Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities stipulates that “administrative organs, etc. shall make necessary and reasonable accommodation for the removal of social barriers.” Private entities, meanwhile, must “endeavor to make necessary and reasonable accommodation for the removal of social barriers” (Article 8, paragraph 2).

The Act is scheduled to come into effect on April 2016. Expectations are high that this will bring major changes to the lives of persons with disabilities in Japan.

Web Accessibility and 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games
The ratification of the UN Convention and amendment and establishment of relevant laws may change society. But even now, less than one year before the effective date of the Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities, the public is largely ignorant of its existence. Policy measures to familiarize the public with the laws are needed. The same kind of policy measures are necessary to wake up the public sector to information accessibility.

In April 2015 a company named Allied Brains Co., Ltd. conducted an exhaustive survey of web accessibility compliance of national governments[3]. The survey found that 806,664 pages in 1,469,477 pages (55%) of 50 ministries and government agencies had problems of not complying with level A of WCAG2.0. The company conducted an exhaustive survey of local government websites and found the same serious problem too.

Japan expects Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 and will welcome a number of foreign tourists including tourists with disabilities to watch the Games. The government is now trying to improve public transportation accessibility by increasing the number of elevators and escalators in stations around Tokyo. But there is no policy measure to improve the web accessibility of the official site of the Games, national and local government agencies, and the private sector including public transportation and accommodation providers.

The number of people who consider visiting is larger than the number of tourists who really come to Tokyo; therefore, improvement of web accessibility of relevant sites is an important issue. As the accessibility of relevant websites may affect people’s decision to come to Tokyo to watch the Games, we need to ensure good web accessibility for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

[1] 2014 white paper on persons with disabilities (in Japanese)

[3] Allied Brains Co., Ltd. website (in Japanese) http://www.a-brain.com/

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Related Items:

• GameON

• MODEL DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY POLICIES PRESENTED AT THE UNITED NATIONS

• Japan to Improve Accessibility for People with Disabilities as Part of Olympic Preparations

• Nominations Open for U.S. FCC Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility (AAA)

• Mobile Trends Conference, Kraków, Poland


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