From The Mainichi Shimbun
May 19 2021
Aizuwakamatsu – While the vaccination program for elderly people aged 65 and over has started in Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture, a blind man living alone in the city received an envelope containing a vaccination ticket without Braille markings, and it was revealed that he was unable to check the contents for two weeks. The city apologized, saying, “We are very sorry for our inadequate response. The man had already made an appointment for the vaccination with the help of a helper.
The blind man is Mr. Masamitsu Kikuchi, 66, an acupuncturist and shiatsu massage therapist. An envelope containing an inoculation ticket arrived at Mr. Kikuchi’s home in late April, before the big holidays. The envelope was marked in Braille to identify the sender, “Aizu Wakamatsu Kenko Zoshinka,” but there was no Braille on the documents inside the envelope, including the 10-digit number to be given when making an appointment by phone. Ms. Kikuchi has a helper come to her house five days a week, but since she doesn’t come during major holidays, she didn’t notice the problem until later. In early May, after the holidays, she asked the helper to read the documents and noticed that the vaccination coupons had arrived.
Mr. Kikuchi had heard about the vaccination program on the radio and knew that it would start on the 10th, but he was worried about whether he would actually be able to receive the vaccination.
According to the city government, there are 10 blind elderly people over 65 years old living alone in the city. Five of them, including Ms. Kikuchi, have already made appointments, two are considering getting vaccinated, and two others are planning to make appointments with the help of care managers and the city government. The remaining one has not been able to be contacted.
Mr. Kikuchi said, “It’s impossible for a blind person to complete an appointment by himself; if there were only ten blind people living alone, they should have called me. He was also concerned about the increasing burden of vaccination on local governments, saying, “I think there are similar people in other municipalities. For a blind person, touching is seeing, so it’s hard not to have Braille,” she said.
In March, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare issued an administrative notice to prefectures, and Fukushima Prefecture also notified municipalities, requesting that they take care to make it easier for the visually impaired to obtain information. Sachiko Fujimori, director of the Health and Welfare Department of Aizuwakamatsu City, explained, “We didn’t give enough consideration.”