A lawmaker with severe physical disabilities highlighted the various difficulties disabled people encounter in their daily lives as she attended her first interpellation in the Diet on Tuesday since she was elected in July. "I want to ask questions so more rational considerations will be made" in society for people with disabilities, Eiko Kimura, who has cerebral palsy, said to the standing committee of land and transport. Kimura won a seat in the July 21 Upper House election as a member of Reiwa Shinsengumi, an anti-establishment political group founded in April by actor-turned-politician Taro Yamamoto. For roughly 30 minutes she raised questions about the barrier-free accessibility of evacuation shelters during typhoons and other natural disasters, as well as the availability of toilets for the disabled. According to the House of Councilors, it marks the first time a lawmaker requiring a wheelchair and an aide due to a disability has asked questions during an interpellation session.
Lawmaker Yasuhiko Funago has a neurological disease that means he cannot speak and communicates by blinking to his carer or operating a computer system with his mouth. But he is demanding to be heard as he fights to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Japan, where many in the community complain of feeling "invisible." "I was a corporate soldier before I had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and had hardly any opportunities to have contact with people with disabilities," Funago told a committee in November. "I had no idea how people with disabilities or illness were living," he said in the remarks read by his parliamentary aide. Such "ignorance" leads to "prejudice and discrimination," the 62-year-old warned.
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.
The Upper House on Sunday started renovation work for two newly elected lawmakers with severe physical disabilities. As Yasuhiko Funago, 61, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Eiko Kimura, 54, who has cerebral palsy, use bigger-than-normal wheelchairs, the Upper House removed three seats from its chamber for plenary sessions to create space for them to attend. The seats were at the back of the chamber near a doorway. Funago and Kimura won their races in the July 21 election as candidates for Reiwa Shinsengumi, a political group founded in April by actor-turned-politician Taro Yamamoto to "challenge the establishment and status quo." Electric power sources will be installed where the two lawmakers will sit so they can use them to charge their wheelchairs and medical equipment.
Two candidates with severe disabilities belonging to the opposition group Reiwa Shinsengumi won seats in the Upper House election on Sunday, scoring an important victory for disabled people in a country where they have long been encouraged to stay in the shadows. In addition, the wins by Eiko Kimura, 54, and Yasuhiko Funago, 61, marked the first by candidates not belonging to a so-called political party since the open-list, proportional representation system was put in place in 2001, the Asahi newspaper said on its website. It is also a sign of society's changing attitudes toward such people. Reiwa Shinsengumi was set up in April, but it still does not have accreditation as a political party. Kimura, who has cerebral palsy, did not even know how to buy train tickets when she chose to move out of a facility for the disabled and live in a Tokyo suburb at age 19.