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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities law is opportunity to end bias: Editorial

Editorial appears in April 5, 2016 Yomiuri Shimbun news:
Realizing a livable society in which everyone, whether disabled or not, respects each other's individuality - we hope the recent enforcement of a new law will provide an opportunity for such awareness and actions to take root among the people.

The Law on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities came into force this month. The law bans administrative bodies and private businesses from unduly discriminating against disabled people, and it also calls for giving "reasonable consideration" to support people with disabilities.

This is in line with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Japan signed in 2007 and ratified in 2014. About 160 countries and regions have joined the treaty.

Under the new law, refusing or limiting the provision of services due to a disability or attaching such conditions as requiring disabled people to be accompanied by someone to assist them is considered discriminatory.

"Reasonable consideration" refers to efforts to remove various barriers the disabled face, as long as the burden of doing so is not excessive.

A typical example is installing slopes for wheelchair users. Measures well thought out from the position of people with disabilities, such as providing Braille materials or sign language interpreters for those with visual or hearing impairments, must be expanded as much as possible.

Simply treating those with disabilities exactly the same as the able-bodied does not mean equality in many cases. Without means of moving and communicating, people with disabilities are limited in their activities. A major characteristic of the new law is that it makes it clear that failing to give "reasonable consideration" is also considered discriminatory.

Serious efforts essential

The new law obliges administrative bodies to give "reasonable consideration" to disabled people, and it also requires private businesses to make efforts to do so.

However, the effectiveness of the new law will be limited if not enough is done by private businesses that people with disabilities come into contact with in their daily lives, such as public transportation and commercial facilities. A positive approach should be taken.

There are as many as 7.88 million disabled people in the country. It is certain that this number will rise further in the future in step with the aging of society. Providing services and products for people with disabilities will not only improve the images of corporations but will also make good business sense.

To deal with trouble related to discrimination, tasks remain to be addressed. The new law urges local governments to set up local councils in which relevant entities can prevent or help solve such troubles.

Although establishment of such councils is proceeding at the prefectural level, municipal governments lag behind. To eliminate discrimination, it is vital to take measures for people with disabilities in the areas where they live.

Nearly three years have passed since the new law was enacted, but it is hard to say that its intent has become widely recognized in society.

The promotion of barrier-free environments that give consideration to disabled people will also bring benefits to the elderly and people with children. Also, the Tokyo Paralympic Games is coming up in 2020. The government should strive to make the new law widely known.

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