LivAbility Magazine
Photo shows four members of the Japanese delegation, one in a wheelchair with a sophisticated joystick. All smile at the camera. They make the ASL universal symbol for "I love you."

Story by Megan Granata
Photo by Clinton McDaniel

Kenji Hamano and Kyota Yagi made history on July 23: they met with other Independent Living leaders in Washington D.C. to form the World Independent Living Network that seeks to unite people with disabilities and Centers for Independent Living across the globe. Together, they visited Ability360 as cultural ambassadors to learn more about our disability community in the U.S. and to share a little about theirs.

Yagi is the social media and web specialist for his center in Iroha. He says the biggest obstacle facing the disability community in Japan is attendant care.

“It can be a challenge for people with disabilities to find employment.  There is some government funding to help pay for Personal Assistant Services, depending on where you live.  Once you are hired, the government requires your employer to pay for these services.  This creates a disincentive for employers to hire people with disabilities.” Yagi said through translator Ayumi Miyachi.

Hamano, the head of his center’s Personal Attendant Services Program, shared a different answer to this question: mentality.

“People with disabilities sometimes don’t think they can work or live independently,” he said.

Hamano described how people with disabilities in Japan are sometimes hidden away by their families, or overlooked by employers who assume they can’t work.

“There is a lot of work to do in changing attitudes,” he said – of which Amina Kruck, Vice President of Advocacy at Ability360, replied, “That sounds familiar.”

In addition to meeting with staff and touring our facilities, Hamano and Yagi also visited the Musical Instrument and Heard museums, rode the light rail, and hung out with Ability360’s resident wheelchair rugby team, 360Heat.