November 6th 2018
Two months after an earthquake in Hokkaido, many visually impaired people continue to suffer. Even those who have not had their homes destroyed, cannot clean up the interior where household goods have scattered, etc., and assistance from those nearby is indispensable for rebuilding their lives. However, in recent years, the number of people who do not join support groups and others who live with a disability hidden from their neighbors is increasing, and isolation at the time of a disaster is also a problem.
The Japan Association of the Blind and the Japan Blind Welfare Committee have launched a support countermeasure headquarters after the occurrence of a catastrophe and collaborated with the Braille libraries and the blind school to make sure of the safety of the visually impaired and to grasp the damage.
However, it is not easy to confirm the safety of people with disabilities. Each municipal government has compiled an “evacuation action requiring support list” including persons with disabilities, but according to the provisions of the Basic Act on Disaster Countermeasures, only the neighborhood associations and others can provide such a list. A list of persons with disabilities cannot be obtained and contact information cannot be obtained. Director Takafumi Wada of the Hokkaido guide dog association says, “It is difficult to gather information only by organizations with visual impairment, and it is necessary to cooperate with neighborhood associations and social welfare councils that have a roster.”
About 4,400 people (as of March) have a visual impairment in Sapporo city which observed the maximum seismic intensity of 6 or less and suffered damage such as furniture collapse in many households. Approximately 10% of members of Sapporo City Welfare Association for the Visually Impaired joined forces to confirm the safety of the members after the earthquake occurred, but the safety of non-membeers has not been ascertained yet. Hisae Kondo, president, “I can not clean up myself and I am worried about it.”
Akemi Takahashi (52) of Sapporo City, Shiroishi Ward, who has weak eyesight, lives with her blind husband on the 8th floor of an apartment tower, realized the importance of assistance after the earthquake. The apartments fell, the dishes were broken, etc. My house was not a place where I could live, but the managers rushed to clear the apartment up. “Everyone was in trouble, I helped with the cleaning of my house,” she said.
Mikiko Kuzi, president of Misaki Kuzi (53), “The blind and sighted people association” (Sapporo City) said, “If they cannot see it, a person can not go to a shelter. On such days it is important to have positive and an active relationships”.