East Asia Disability Studies Forum 2016 – Door, Tower of the Sun and Detective Conan

published: 2016-11-01 Japanese:日本語版へ

The Research Center for Ars Vivendi organized the East Asia Disability Studies Forum 2016 on the theme of legal capacity (Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: CRPD) and adult guardianship. The forum met at the new Osaka Ibaraki Campus (OIC) of Ritsumeikan University on September 22 and 23, 2016. This forum started as a bilateral exchange and dialogue between Korea and Japan in 2010. It included the civil society of China in 2014, and we are very happy to welcome Taiwan this year.

Legal capacity for all, which is Article 12 of the CRPD, is one of the essential components of the CRPD and presents a major challenge at the international and regional levels. It was by no means an accident that the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities picked up Article 12 for the first General Comment. We were able to share the current status of Article 12 in Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan. Please visit our site for the programme and other information.

I was very much encouraged by the very positive feedbacks , including comments such as "the forum was of the U.N. standard" and that "it had set a high standard for future meetings." The participants voiced satisfaction through their responses to the questionnaires. It was worthwhile to provide simultaneous interpretations among Korean, Chinese and Japanese as well as papers in different languages and in Japanese Braille, sign language interpretation and captioning.

When another staff member looked at me on the day before the forum at OIC, he said, "You look as if the forum is already over." We had six people from Korea, seven from China, ten from Taiwan and three from Hong Kong and a lot of communication was needed in advance. Preparing PPTs and papers in three languages was also a big task. Traditional Chinese characters and simplified Chinese characters made things complicated as well. Fortunately, most of the logistics had been done by then and after all, Typhoon Malakas had already moved to the east. Perhaps as the main organizer, I was feeling a relieved.

Mr. Lee Chanwoo in his room

The relief, of course, was short-lived. I got a phone call from the reception of the OIC Seminar House where overseas participants were going to stay. Mr. Lee Chanwoo from the Korea Spinal Cord Injury Association was having a problem because the door to the bath and toilet unit was too narrow for his wheelchair. There was an accessible restroom next to the reception, but there was no accessible bath or shower room at the Seminar House. It was going to be a huge problem since Mr. Lee was going to stay there for five days. I was panicking.

In fact, it is really a shame that our newly built Seminar House does not have a single wheelchair-accessible room. But, of course, I was negligent in not making sure that the door to the unit was wide enough for his wheelchair. I had to make a number of desperate phone calls to local hotels, asking for the availability of a wheelchair-accessible room.

In the end, it was solved. Mr. Lee suggested a simple solution, which was to have the door to the unit removed. The Office of Regional Cooperation of the university kindly arranged to have the door removed temporarily. This was a case of a provision of "reasonable accommodation" called for by the Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities, which was enacted as a harmonization measure with the CRPD.

Korean and Hong Kong guests and the Tower of the Sun

When the very productive forum was over at noon on September 23, I took some participants to the Expo ‘70s Commemorative Park. I wanted my friends to see the Tower of the Sun. It is just one station ride on the Osaka Monorail from Unobe Station, close to the OIC. There is an accessible route from the OIC to Unobe Station, which is wheelchair-accessible as well. Two wheelchair users did not have any problem getting on the train by themselves. I appreciate the accessibility of the Osaka Monorail Line, which is highly regarded for its barrier-free facilities and services. This made me keenly aware of the importance of accessibility, Article 9 of the CRPD.

The forum has made a strong impression on me not only by the precious substantive discussions we had but also by more personal interactions. One of the happy surprises I had was that two young Chinese participants who joined us from Ireland and U.K., respectively, where they were working on their PhDs, headed to Tottori after the meeting. When I asked why, I learned that Tottori, a prefecture facing the Sea of Japan and a three-hour train ride from Ibaraki, has a museum dedicated to Detective Conan, a popular manga character. I did not know that even the local airport is now named "Tottori Sand Dunes Conan Airport." And, I least expected to learn about these developments from Chinese colleagues. This is just another real pleasure I get from organizing the East Asia Disability Forum.

Without knowing, I have spent twenty years working on disability studies. I enjoy working on disability studies as it combines research and practice. The next forum will meet in Korea in 2017.

NAGASE Osamu

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