Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles


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© Dimitris Michailakis 1997

Transmitted by Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York (9 May 1996)
Compare with the following Country Report(s): DPI, RI

General policy

The officially recognized disability policy in Japan is expressed in law, in guidelines adopted by the Government and in the Government Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities (A seven-year plan from 1996 to 2002). The emphasis - in descending scale - is on: individual support, rehabilitation, accessibility measures, prevention, anti-discrimination law.

Since the adoption of the Rules the Government has taken the following measures in order to convey the message of full participation: distribution of the Rules to Ministries and agencies, local public entities and NGOs, establishing of a Disabled Persons Week (from 3-9 December).


The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by a combination of special and general legislation. There are no judicial mechanisms to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Non-judicial mechanisms include a Governmental body (administrative).

The general legislation applies to persons with different disabilities with respect to education, employment, the right to marriage, the right to parenthood/family, political rights, access to court-of-law, right to privacy, and property rights. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: health and medical care, training, rehabilitation and counselling, financial security, employment, independent living, and participation in decisions affecting them.

The following laws concerning disability have been enacted since the adoption of the Rules:


There are laws and regulations requiring that public places, the outdoor environment, land, sea, air transportation and housing are made accessible. Accessibility in the build environment is observed by a national authority and local Governments. The following measures have been promoted to facilitate accessibility in the build environment: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, installing automatic doors, lifts and accessible toilets, ensuring access to public places, improving accessibility in housing, providing financial incentives/support for accessibility measures when building or renovating housing, installing special lighting and using contrast colours for visually impaired, and providing for specially adapted motor vehicles. Other measures promoted to facilitate accessibility are: training dogs, laying embossed tiles on sidewalks for persons with visual disabilities, training and dispatching guide helpers, barrier-free town planning, providing prosthetic and orthotic appliances, training driving skills, establishing guidelines for private transport institutions, and financial support for establishing facilities for persons with disabilities. Special transport arrangements include the service of buses equipped with a lift. Special transport is available for medical treatment, education, work, and recreational purpose. When planning to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are economic/budgetary factors, technical factors, geographical and climatic factors. There is a disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers.

Sign language for deaf people is recognized as the main means of communication between deaf persons and others. There are Government measures for encouraging media and other forms of public information to make their services available for persons with disabilities. These include: computerised information network in Braille, computerised network for persons with disabilities, editing and distributing the books in Braille and recorded tapes. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and other persons: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, sign language interpretation being available for any purpose. Other services provided in addition to those enumerated in the questionnaire are: establishment of "Fax 110", a service that receives emergency messages with facsimile at prefectural police, promotion of the establishment of "sign language KOBAN (police boxes)", police officers and others who can communicate in sign language wearing "Sign Language Badges", Ministry of Post and Telecommunications providing Braille and large-Print versions of Postal Savings and provision of general information booklets at post offices.

Organizations of persons with disabilities

There is a national umbrella organization where all the organizations of persons with disabilities are represented. Legal provisions mandate the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy-making and to work with Governmental institutions. Organizations are always consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared. Consultations take place at both national, regional and local level. The Government gives financial and organizational/logistic support to existing or new organizations of persons with disabilities. In addition the Government supports them by providing information, financial assistance and know-how to the projects of the organizations of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities participate to a very limited extent in legislature, in judicial authorities and political parties but to some extent in Government and in NGOs. The disabled persons' organizations have the role to advocate rights and improved services, mobilize persons with disabilities, identify needs and priorities, participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and measures, contribute to public awareness, provide services, and promote/organize income generating activities.

Co-ordination of work

The national co-ordinating committee is reporting to the Prime Minister and to the 18 Ministers concerned. The committee includes representatives of many Ministries, of organizations of persons with disabilities, of other NGOs, from the private sector, of persons with knowledge and experience, from labour unions and business fields, and of Ministries and Agencies in charge of public works. The Government expects the co-ordinating committee to participate in policy development and to perform other tasks such as monitoring the implementation of policies. The establishment of the co-ordinating committee has had the following effects: improved co-ordination of measures/programmes, improved legislation, improved integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field, more accurate planning, more effective use of resources, and improved promotion of public awareness.

The adoption of the Standard Rules has promoted discussions on the accessibility for persons with disabilities.

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Compare with the following Country Report(s): DPI, RI