|04-01-2002, 04:05 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2001
PCs open doors to work for physically challenged in Japan
PCs open doors to work for physically challenged
Takashi Koyama Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
An increasing number of physically challenged people have begun working at home or in facilities for the disabled. They have realized their desire for work by taking advantage of computers and the Internet. The following is a report on how some of them have been able to overcome the barriers in their way.
Yuji Gotoda, 40, lives and works in a room on the fourth floor of Kenshoen, a care facility for physically challenged people in Tokushima. The facility overlooks the Yoshinogawa river.
Gotoda has been designing computer software for nursing schools in Osaka Prefecture since late last year.
The software is designed to help students and teachers remember each other's names and faces by playing puzzle games featuring their photos.
"This is the first time I have designed software. I was eager to do this kind of work to sharpen my skills," he said with a smile as he moved his mouse around with his left hand.
Gotoda was in a motorcycle accident when he was 22, and since then has been paralyzed from the chest down as well as in his right arm.
Though he has lived in the facility since the accident, he always felt something was lacking. Then he found out about Kobe-based welfare organization Prop Station.
Prop Station was established in 1991 and has pioneered activities to assist disabled people work with personal computers.
The organization holds PC seminars every year, and has provided job information and contracts for work in fields such as graphic design and local government-affiliated projects to hundreds of disabled people working at home.
"I thought, 'If I can learn to use a PC, I can work even if I can only use my left hand," said Gotoda, who took a correspondence course on compiling databases in 1997.
Importance of skills
For four hours each day, Gotoda struggled with lessons sent via e-mail. The courses was aimed at professional computer engineers.
When the course ended eight months later, less than half the original 10 students remained. Gotoda continued to study, and has since received contracts, brokered by Prop Station, for computer-based jobs like designing Web sites.
He works from evening to midnight. He has a cable connection through which he can transmit large quantities of data. He purchases the parts and equipment he needs through the Internet.
"People may think people in this kind of facility can't work," Gotoda said. "But today, there are disabled people who can work while receiving nursing care."
Gotoda is currently working on a joint project with three other people who live in Hyogo and Chiba prefectures. Though he has exchanged information via e-mail with his distant colleagues, he has never met them.
Asked about their disabilities, Gotoda replied, "I don't really know, but it doesn't matter as long as they have skills."
Translator in a wheelchair
Tadashi Mori, 47, lives in a condominium on a hill that takes 20 minutes to climb, high over the city of Nagasaki.
Mori is an employee of Microsoft Japan. The address on his business card reads Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, about 1,000 kilometers away.
Mori has been confined to a wheelchair for more than 10 years because of a nerve disease, and cannot travel the city streets alone. But the Internet has overcome the barriers put in place by his illness.
While he was taking Prop Station's correspondence course in 1996, Microsoft, a supporter of the organization's activities, noticed his skills and employed him as a translator.
Now he translates documents and writes and edits articles for Microsoft's employee Web site.
He sits in front of his PC for eight hours a day. He has delivered many lectures about the problems faced by physically challenged people.
"If there's something we can't do, people tend to think we can't do anything. But there are many disabled people who can work, if even one barrier is broken down," Mori said, urging companies to change their way of thinking about the physically challenged.
Hope for the handicapped
Prop Station holds seminars every Thursday and Saturday at their office on Rokko Island in Kobe.
Yasumasa Yamazaki, 27, from Mikatacho, Fukui Prefecture, had a family member drive four hours so he could attend a recent seminar on Web site design.
His cervical vertebrae was damaged in an accident. Now he can only move his arms slightly by using his shoulder muscles.
Although his family takes care of 90 percent of tasks related to his condition, Yamazaki is upbeat that he will someday become independent. "If I can become economically independent, I can live alone and hire nursing care."
Nami Takenaka, director of Prop Station, has seen many people with disabilities begin work. She said, "If one person changes, society eventually changes. The computer is an important tool toward realizing this goal," she said