A Disabled Man Living In Japan Responds To Last Week’s Events
This is a guest post by Michael Gillan Peckitt, a disabled man living in Japan. Thanks to Michael.
By Michael Gillan Peckitt, Kobe, Japan
As I write this it is now six days since Satoshi Uematsu stabbed 19 people, and injured 26 others at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en care home for the intellectually disabled in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.
We now know that Uematsu, on February 15th 2016 took a hand delivered letter to the Speaker of the Japanese Diet’s Lower House. Here is the letter in full:
“Dear Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima,
Thank you very much for reading this letter. I can wipe out a total of 470 disabled individuals.
I am fully aware that my remark is eccentric. However, thinking about the tired faces of guardians, the dull eyes of caregivers working at the facility, I am not able to contain myself, and so I decided to take action today for the sake of Japan and the world.
My reasoning is that I may be able to revitalize the world economy and I thought it may be possible to prevent World War III.
I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanized, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is difficult for the person to carry out household and social activities.
I believe there is still no answer about the way of life for individuals with multiple disabilities. The disabled can only create misery.
I think now is the time to carry out a revolution and to make the inevitable but tough decision for the sake of all mankind. Let Japan take the first big step.
Would Mr. Tadamori Oshima, who bears the world, use his power to make the world proceed in a better direction?
I sincerely hope you would deliver this message to Mr. Shinzo Abe.
This is the answer I reached after serious thinking about what I can do for humankind.
Dear Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima, would you lend your power for the sake of dear Japan and all humankind?
Please give this full consideration.
It will be carried out during the night shift, when staffing is low.
The target will be two facilities where many multiply disabled people reside.
Staff on guard will be strapped with cable so they can’t move and can’t make contact with anyone outside.
The act will be carried out speedily, and definitely without harming the staff.
After wiping out the 260 people in two facilities, I will turn myself in.
In carrying out the act, I have several requests.
After my arrest, my incarceration should be up to two years, and please let me lead a free life afterward.
Innocence on grounds of insanity.
A new name (Takashi Iguro), government registration and documents such as a driver’s license needed for everyday life.
A disguise for regular society through plastic surgery.
Financial aid of 500 million yen ($5 million).
I would like these conditions to be promised.
If you can make your decision, I will carry it out at any time.
Please consider this fully for the sake of Japan and world peace.
I hope with all my heart that this can be discussed with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, although I am sorry to trouble him in an unimaginably busy schedule.
(address, telephone number)
Worker at the Kanagawa Kyodokai”
We also know that on February 19th, Uematsu was questioned by the Tsukui Police, where upon he repeated his threat, and under Mental Health Laws, was ordered to undergo a mandatory hospitalization. Marijuana was found in Uematsu’s blood and urine on February 20th. According to The Asahi, on March 2nd Uematsu was discharged:
“saying that his symptoms had eased. At that time, he submitted a report to the hospital, which said, “I will live with my family after leaving the hospital.”
It is widely reported that around this time, Uematsu also became interested in the ideas of Adolf Hitler, telling a hospital employee that:
“The ideas of Hitler came to me two weeks ago…The Nazi government implemented a forced euthanasia program for the congenitally disabled, referred to by the Third Reich as “useless eaters” and ‘life unworthy of life’.”
Questions are now being asked what more could have been done to prevent the murders. As NHK World reports:
“Following his discharge, the care home installed more than a dozen security cameras based on police advice.
Kanagawa Prefecture oversees the facility. The Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa says his office was left in the dark and none of that information was shared with him.
“We believe there have been problems in the way authorities share information. We will cooperate with the authorities concerned so this kind of incident never happens again. We will verify the matter thoroughly in order to develop preventive measures,” he says.
The governor said people tend to think the suspect’s discharge was too early. But he said holding him any longer would have created a human rights issue. He said he wants to consult with experts on how to best deal with such a situation.
An expert on forensic psychiatry said more information is needed to tell whether proper measures were taken during Uematsu’s stay in the hospital.
“It’s hard to say at this point whether this incident was preventable or not. I have to say that there was no problem with him being released from hospital because the doctors saw that he was no longer mentally disturbed at that time,” Igarashi says.
But he says the problem is that there’s no proper follow-up system after such people are released.
“We have to carefully analyze his mental condition and how he was living his life in the period between his release and the attack. And we have to utilize the results to come up with effective measures to prevent this kind of tragedy,” Igarashi says.”
I have been living in Japan since August 26th 2012. I have left sided spastic hemiplegia, and my wife, Minae, a Japanese citizen, has athetoid cerebral palsy. As people with disabilities, the murder of intellectually disabled people at the care home in Sagamihara, Kanagawa certainly leaves us shaken. It is difficult not to be worried about friends who have disabilities, much more severe than ourselves, and to be reminded that there are people who view the lives of disabled people, as simply a life not worth living.
However, to conclude from the killings in Sagamihara that Japan somehow has some issue with physical disability, I believe is wrong. Japan is on par with any country when it comes to having a disability, meaning that it is no paradise for disabled people, but neither is it a hell. Attitudes could be better in Japan it is true, it wasn’t long ago that disabled people, for having mild cerebral palsy were taken out of school and placed in residential care, but times are changing.
Employment law already stipulates that every public company must employ a certain amount of disabled people and on April 1st of 2016 The Law to Eliminate Discrimination against People with Disabilities was passed. This is essentially a law that bans hate speech aimed at disabled people and enforces an anti-discrimination law. As The Japan Times explains:
What does the law ban and seek?
The law comprises two key parts. For the first time it bans “unjust discrimination” against people with disabilities. It also asks government agencies and private businesses to take “reasonable accommodation” to remove social barriers for such individuals.
What is considered discriminatory under the law?
The government has issued rough guidelines on examples of acts deemed discriminatory, under which organizations cannot refuse to serve people because of their disabilities, delay responses to their requests or bar their attendance to symposiums or other events. Signs that say “No people with disabilities” are now banned.
Examples of “reasonable accommodation” include “writing documents from dictation upon request,” “using illustrations, dictations, cards and PC tablets to communicate,” and “making seating arrangements in a way that take their disabilities into consideration.”
But the examples do not cover every situation and leave room for interpretation and negotiation. Also, the central and local governments are legally mandated to take measures, but private-sector entities are only asked to “strive” to take action. Private-sector organizations can be slapped with a fine of up to ¥200,000 if they don’t report to authorities on their practices when asked or make false claims in their reports.
Do these pointers provide enough information for people to take proper action?
Rights advocates say no. “The law does not clearly define what exactly constitutes discrimination,” said Kiyoshi Harada, an official at the secretariat of Japan Disability Forum. JDF is a nongovernmental network consisting of 13 national-level organizations working on behalf of people with impairments.
“The law’s significance lies in the fact that municipal governments and businesses are asked to take action. This has given people legal grounds to lodge complaints when they have issues,” Harada said.
He said “reasonable accommodation” is specific to individual needs and hard to generalize. “It’s different from ‘barrier-free’ regulations, where rules are much more clear-cut, such as the size of certain building equipment or angles of ramps.”
For example, blind workers might ask their employers to make documents available in Braille. Employers are required to respond to such requests to the best of their ability, but they might find it financially difficult to put all documents in Braille. In such cases, explaining their difficulty to those who made the requests and offering alternatives, such as providing documents in advance or electronic versions, can be regarded as fulfilling their obligation, Harada said, noting that, this way, blind employees have time to ask other people to read the documents for them or use computer software that reads out typed text.
Now that the law is in place, data on what kind of requests are made and how they are dealt with can be collected. Such a database will eventually set standards for unacceptable behavior and for recommended practices, he said.
What if parties disagree on the law’s requirements?
The law merely says the central and local governments should respond adequately to requests for consultation from people with disabilities, their families and other supporters to resolve disputes.
Specifically, welfare officials at both government levels are encouraged to create regional councils to help resolve conflicts, though it is not mandatory. Council members can include representatives of rights groups, family members, government officials and academics. According to a recent survey by the Cabinet Office, only 112, or 6 percent, of 1,741 municipalities in Japan had set up such councils before the law took effect. Exactly what these councils are supposed to do is not spelled out in the law, however.
The law must be reviewed in three years. How can it be improved?
Harada said the regional dispute-settlement mechanism should be beefed up, and ideally be separated from government oversight. Japan has no independent watchdog that handles issues related to human rights, not only for people with disabilities but also for other vulnerable members of society, including women.
“Ideally, we’d like to see something like the Board of Audit of Japan, which supervises government spending,” he said. “For example, the Justice Ministry has a bureau that deals with human rights issues, but because it is a ministry bureau questions (of neutrality) arise when it comes to human rights at prisons, which the ministry also supervises. We need a mechanism similar to the audit board.”
The law should also make it mandatory for companies to take “reasonable accommodation” on the issue, he added.
“I want people to know the law, as it is the first one of any kind banning discrimination,” Harada said. “The law could be the first step to creating a society where everyone — regardless of whether they have a disability — will be free of discrimination.”
In response to the stabbings Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered a review of the Mental health care system. According to NHK World “Abe asked ministers to consider ways to improve safety at care facilities and the follow-up system for patients discharged from psychiatric facilities following compulsory hospitalization.”
I applaud such a review, I only wonder what took the Japanese government so long to undertake such a review.