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Yohei Sasakawa
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The Nippon Foundation Surpasses 2 Million Mark in Free COVID-19 PCR Testing for Caregivers in Tokyo Area [2021年10月29日(Fri)]
The Nippon Foundation has undertaken a project to offer caregivers and other essential workers at elderly nursing homes in Tokyo and the three nearby prefectures free and regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the novel coronavirus. This was part of our campaign to help the nation combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of October 16, the number of PCR tests administered on these caregivers reached 2,073,737, surpassing the 2 million mark for the first time since the project was launched in late February. Of the total, 374 persons tested positive.

The foundation’s PCR testing program was aimed at identifying positive COVID-19 cases with mild or no symptoms among nursing home staff and thus preventing them from unknowingly transmitting the coronavirus to the elderly in their care who are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill or dying if they become infected.

The Nippon Foundation has also built a makeshift facility with 150 beds in Odaiba on Tokyo Bay to accommodate coronavirus patients with moderate or no symptoms, including those with pets.

The number of patients who stayed at the facility peaked at 52 on August 31 and has since fallen to three as of October 16. This was in step with the downward trend in new cases reported by the Tokyo metropolitan government, with the total falling dramatically from a daily record of 5,773 for the capital on August 13 to well under 100 since early October.

The Japanese media seems to have focused on the number of total COVID-19 cases and the strain on hospitals. But the importance of PCR tests has taken a backseat in their coverage even though I believe testing is considered to be one of the most effective ways to avoid transmission of the disease along with the inoculation campaign.

In contrast to the government’s vaccination drive, under which people get their shots for free, a PCR test can sometimes cost as much as 15,000 yen (about $132) a time.

Getting people to understand the importance of PCR tests would help ease their anxiety about the pandemic as well as encourage them to stay home when cases surge. I am a layman as far as medicine is concerned, but I do believe PCR testing should be administered for nothing.

Besides, the local authorities should also reveal the number of PCR tests conducted in addition to the number of those who test positive. This would give us a clearer picture of the overall COVID-19 infection rate and more time to prepare for the worst.

It is fortunate, however, that thanks to the strenuous efforts by the central and local governments, medical professionals and others, we are making progress in mitigating the effects of the coronavirus. The government has lifted COVID-19 state of emergency restrictions in all prefectures for the first time in six months.

On October 26, the government reported that 70.1% of the country’s population of 125 million has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, ranking third among the Group of Seven nations after an initially slow vaccine rollout.

But danger past, God forgotten. There are still so many unknowns about the disease. Some experts predict that Japan might be hit by a sixth wave of COVID-19 infections with or without new highly transmissible variants of coronavirus.

The Nippon Foundation, working from the motto of “providing is preventing,” will continue to undertake various initiatives to help the nation battle the virus. I sincerely hope the government, medical professionals and other stakeholders as well as ordinary citizens will deal with the pandemic in the same spirit, basing their response on scientific evidence and a thorough analysis of the situation.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:12 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation to Provide Osaka University with 23 Billion Yen to Assist its Project to Better Cope with Future Pandemics (2) [2021年10月06日(Wed)]
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With President Shojiro Nishio (right) of Osaka University at a press conference on September 14, 2021, to announce The Nippon Foundation’s decision to provide 23 billion yen (about $209 million dollars) over the next 10 years for the university’s infectious disease research project.


The project has three main goals. First is to promote basic research into infectious diseases, look into the mechanism of the human immune system, antigens and microbes related to infectious diseases, and develop treatments against them.

Second, it will delve into social psychology and behavioral economics in addition to basic medicine. The partnership aims at delivering results that can reduce the impact of pandemics on economic and social activities. Moreover, the center will provide insights into the way the government handles public affairs activities with a view to ensuring that when there is an outbreak of an infectious disease, the public will be provided with timely, accurate and understandable information based on science.

Lastly, Osaka University will nurture over 10,000 health care professionals who will be available to combat infectious diseases so that the medical system won’t collapse due to staffing shortages.

Observing the efforts to deal with COVID-19 has made me keenly aware that an infectious disease outbreak is a “human security crisis,” posing a threat to the lives, livelihoods and dignity of people across the globe. The concept of human security has been debated for many years at the United Nations and other fora and was raised in connection with COVID-19 by then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in his video address to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2020. I believe that a pandemic of a deadly infectious disease is a crucial issue that affects the safety of people and thus the security of the world.

Japan has tended to give priority to applied science, which can produce immediate profits, over basic science. But one cannot build a building without a firm foundation.

Just as human beings must do everything to avoid wars, we must do all we can to avert climate change and its consequences, including natural disasters and the spread of infectious diseases that some experts suggest may be linked to global climate change. This is what has prompted the foundation to support the Osaka University project, which places a primary emphasis on basic medicine and science.

The Nippon Foundation, working from the motto of “providing is preventing,” has undertaken various initiatives to help the nation combat COVID-19. These include a 3.7 billion yen (about $35.7 million) project to build a makeshift facility with 140 beds for patients with mild or no symptoms, 4.98 billion yen (about $48.1 million) in assistance to 128 emergency medical services hospitals across the country that take care of severely ill and high-risk patients, and providing free and regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for essential workers at nursing homes in the metropolitan areas, to just mention a few.

By partnering with Osaka University, I envisage the creation of a world-class research hub that brings together topnotch researchers from universities and institutions across the globe and serves as a “global public good” that benefits all nations and peoples.

To prepare for a pandemic that might hit Japan and the rest of the world in the future, I believe it is vitally important to beef up the foundations of basic science and medicine from a long-term perspective and pave the way for applied science and medicine to effectively tackle outbreaks of infectious disease.

(End)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation to Provide Osaka University with 23 Billion Yen to Assist its Project to Better Cope with Future Pandemics (1) [2021年10月05日(Tue)]
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Speaking at a press conference on September 14, 2021, with President Shojiro Nishio (center) and Executive Vice President Yasufumi Kaneda (left) of Osaka University to announce The Nippon Foundation’s 23 billion yen (about $209 million dollars) contribution to the university’s infectious disease research project.


The Nippon Foundation has announced that it will provide Osaka University based in the western Japanese city with 23 billion yen (about $209 million dollars) over the next 10 years to support its infectious disease research project to prepare for future pandemics.

I made the announcement at a press conference at The Nippon Foundation on September 14 alongside President Shojiro Nishio and Executive Vice President Yasufumi Kaneda of Osaka University.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly strained Japan’s health care system while dealing a heavy blow to its economic activities. The project is aimed at preventing Japan and other countries taking a hit from future pandemics caused by as yet unknown infectious diseases by promoting open innovation between research institutions and business entities at home and abroad.

Speaking at the press conference, President Shojiro Nishio noted that Osaka University is “extraordinarily lucky” to receive such a large amount of money from The Nippon Foundation for the project, explaining that a research center the university set up last April solely to combat infectious diseases will be tasked with playing a leading role in undertaking the project. The center can accommodate up to 90 researchers from Japan and overseas.

The university, known for its advanced basic medicine, clinical application, social medicine, immunology and research into microbial diseases, will go all out to obtain tangible results in 10 years to contribute to conquering infectious diseases, he added.

Asked by reporters why The Nippon Foundation decided to support Osaka University out of hundreds of universities and institutions in and outside Japan, I pointed to its history of research into infectious diseases dating back to Koan Ogata (1810-1863), a notable medical doctor and educator who founded Tekijyuku, a “place of learning,” that evolved into Osaka University.

The university is a bit different from other Japanese national universities because of its flexibility and track record of working closely with industry, I said, noting that President Nishio and Executive Vice President Kaneda are committed to opening up the research center to talent from universities and research institutions around the world.

“Therefore, I believe that Osaka University is our best partner.”

(To be continued)


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“Osaka University is our best partner,” I said at a press conference on September 14, 2021, to announce that The Nippon Foundation will inject 23 billion yen (about $209 million dollars) into the university’s infectious disease research project over the next 10 years.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:20 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation, MetLife Launch “Better Life Better Place” Program for the Elderly and Children in Japan (2) [2021年09月27日(Mon)]
The number of older people in Japan has been increasing. This program will provide a safe, home-like environment where the elderly can spend their last days supported in comfort.

Local home helpers, visiting nurses, and volunteers will work together to support residents’ daily medical, nursing, and preventive care needs. The program aims to have 10 facilities up and running in the Kanto (centering on the Tokyo metropolitan area), Kansai (western Japan), Tohoku (northeastern Japan), and Kyushu (southern Japan) regions by the first half of 2024.

While the majority of older persons in Japan pass away in hospitals, about 80% express a desire to live out their final days at home, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW). As the decline in Japan’s birthrate and the aging of its population accelerate, there is a need for environments in which people can feel at ease at the end of their lives.

The aim of “Third Places for Children,” meanwhile, is to provide after-school facilities for children facing challenges including being left alone or having to eat alone because of family circumstances, or children who are experiencing learning or living difficulties due to developmental characteristics, or a loss of opportunity because of financial circumstances.

These facilities provide children with meals, help them develop good study and living habits, and provide them with opportunities for various life experiences. The facilities also cooperate with schools and professional organizations to serve as a hub for the local community. The program aims to complete two Third Places for Children, one each in the Kanto and Kansai areas, by September 2022.

I told the press conference that roughly one in seven children under 18 in Japan live in relative poverty, according to MHLW, and the economic and educational disparities are expected to only worsen under the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. Given these difficult conditions, the need for programs like these to support these two vulnerable groups could not be more urgent.

I was greatly impressed by Mr. Dirk Ostijn’s firm grasp on the pressing problems facing senior citizens and children in Japan less than a year after coming to the country.

MetLife Foundation’s grant is probably one of the largest single contributions by a private entity to The Nippon Foundation. With employees of MetLife Japan working as volunteers to support these care facilities across the country, I sincerely hope the program will become a role model for other companies and thus help foster a culture of donations in Japan.

(End)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation, MetLife Launch “Better Life Better Place” Program for the Elderly and Children in Japan (1) [2021年09月24日(Fri)]
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With Mr. Dirk Ostijn (right), MetLife Japan Representative Statutory Executive Officer, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, at a press conference to launch “MetLife Foundation x The Nippon Foundation: ‘Better Life Better Place’ for the Elderly and Children” program on September 16, 2021.

The Nippon Foundation and MetLife Insurance K.K. (“MetLife Japan”) have launched “MetLife Foundation x The Nippon Foundation: ‘Better Life Better Place’ for the Elderly and Children” program to develop a total of 12 care facilities for older persons and children across Japan over three years from September 2021.

MetLife Foundation, the philanthropic arm of MetLife, a global provider of insurance and other financial services headquartered in New York, will donate $3.75 million (approx. 400 million yen) to The Nippon Foundation to undertake the project.

Starting this month, the program will begin developing 10 home-like hospice facilities for older persons as well as two “Third Places for Children” that are neither homes nor schools where children raised in challenging environments can spend time after school.

The Nippon Foundation will build and operate these facilities nationwide and MetLife Japan employees will have opportunities to support the facilities and their residents through volunteer programs, including much-needed support for users and care workers and educational and financial empowerment programs for children.

At a press conference to announce the launch at The Nippon Foundation on September 16, Mr. Dirk Ostijn, Japan Representative Statutory Executive Officer, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Metlife Japan, said: “MetLife Foundation is delighted to partner with The Nippon Foundation to build a strong, multi-year program to help those in communities where we work and live.”

“With the grant from MetLife Foundation, The Nippon Foundation and volunteers from MetLife Japan, we will all work together to tackle the societal challenges facing the elderly and children in Japan with the aim of building a sustainable society where no one is left behind.”

I said that we were very grateful to receive this donation of more than 400 million yen to be granted over the next three years, in recognition of The Nippon Foundation’s activities to date, adding: “We look forward to working with MetLife Japan and MetLife Foundation to address issues facing older persons and children.”

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:21 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
What could Tokyo have done better in responding to COVID-19? [2021年09月10日(Fri)]
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14 prefabricated buildings with a total of 150 beds are now open for COVID-19 patients who are over the worst of the illness to recuperate. The Nippon Foundation built the facility in Odaiba on Tokyo Bay and leased it to the Tokyo metropolitan government for nothing.


The Nippon Foundation has built a makeshift facility comprising 14 prefabricated buildings with 150 beds in Odaiba on Tokyo Bay to accommodate novel coronavirus patients with moderate or no symptoms. As new cases surged in the Japanese capital since late last year, we repeatedly urged the Tokyo metropolitan government to use the facility built in the parking lot of the Museum of Maritime Science to take in patients, including those with pets.

Between July 1 and August 15, with cases reaching record highs and hospital capacity and medical infrastructure under strain, the facility’s busiest day saw only 49 COVID-19 patients; one day, there were just 11.

I was puzzled by the inconsistency between what was going on in the frontlines and the way Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike talked on TV every day about the need to do whatever necessary to increase the number of available beds to cope with the pandemic.

So, as the head of the foundation that has leased the facility to the Tokyo government for nothing, I was pleased to know that Ms. Koike seemed to have finally grasped what was actually happening.

According to media reports, the governor has decided to move patients who are on the road to recovery from hospitals to the Odaiba facility in order to save hospital beds almost exclusively for the seriously ill.

The decision came as hospitals in Tokyo have been under severe pressure due to the surge in cases propelled by the highly infectious COVID-19 Delta variant. The Odaiba facility has introduced oxygen concentrators to be used for patients with moderate symptoms, should they require them.

The governor told a metropolitan assembly session on August 19 that she will beef up the Tokyo’s medical facilities to mitigate the pandemic by working closely with the foundation and hospitals in and around the capital.

On September 9, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga extended a state of emergency for 19 prefectures, including Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, beyond the September 12 deadline through September 30. Pressure on medical facilities in Tokyo has forced more than 17,000 COVID-19 patients to isolate at home instead of in hospital as of September 1−a clear indication of the lack of hospital beds in the capital.

As I wrote in previous blogs, The Nippon Foundation has undertaken a project since last March to offer caregivers and other essential workers of elderly nursing homes in Tokyo and the three nearby prefectures free and regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19. Thorough testing is considered to be one of the most effective ways to avoid transmission of the disease.

Television and newspapers report only the number of positive cases. But I believe they should also publish data on the number of people tested. They seemed to have hardly reported on the importance of conducting PCR tests.

Although the foundation has directly informed the governors of Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures that we are offering free PCR tests for caregivers, the number of tests conducted has fallen far short of our expectations.

As of August 23, a total of 1,044,712 PCR tests were administered mainly for the staff of nursing facilities in the metropolitan area under the foundation’s project. Of these, 202 persons tested positive, or 0.019% of the total. Perhaps the fact that we are conducting the tests for free has upset those who do business from testing. But I imagine there are many people who cannot afford to pay a test fee of more than 10,000 yen (about $90).

Our fight against COVID-19 basically comes down to “self-help”−each one of us taking steps to avoid being infected by the coronavirus. At the same time, isn’t it also important to make better use of “mutual help” offered by the private sector, including The Nippon Foundation, in addition to the “public help” provided by the central and local governments?



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The oxygen concentrator and monitors the Odaiba facility introduced for patients with moderate symptoms, should they require them.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:06 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
70% of Japanese Youths Use Public Toilets, But Have Negative Image of Them Depending on Location (2) [2021年07月28日(Wed)]
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Do you feel that public toilets are a fitting expression of the omotenashi concept of Japanese hospitality?

The Nippon Foundation’s survey on public toilets clearly showed that although restrooms in Japanese parks and along footpaths are free and close at hand, the reality is not everyone feels able to use them with peace of mind.

Local governments are charged with cleaning and maintaining public bathrooms in parks and along footpaths in Shibuya and other municipalities and the poll found that about six in 10 young Japanese (57.9%) agree.

On the other hand, some young Japanese believe that these toilets should be cleaned and maintained by local volunteers (4.8%) or local residents (2.9%) on the ground that locals are the ones who use them most frequently.

Asked whether public toilets are a fitting expression of the Japanese concept of hospitality known as omotenashi, or selfless hospitality, Japanese young were divided with 31.9% answering yes, 27.1% no and 41% don’t know.

As reasons for answering yes, almost eight in 10 (79.0%) said many restrooms can be used for free by anyone, followed by those who said that they are kept clean (58.9%), they are always stocked with toilet paper (37.9%), and they are equipped with features such as wash function and noise reduction (36.7%). Reasons for answering no are that many restrooms are not kept clean (71.2%), exteriors are sometimes not inviting (36.9%) and the morals of users who do things like soiling the toilet or stealing toilet paper are questionable (30.3%).

The survey showed again how important it is to always keep public toilets, especially those in parks and along footpaths, clean and inviting for users.

Under THE TOKYO TOILET project, maintenance of the toilets is being carried out under a three-party agreement concluded by The Nippon Foundation, the Shibuya City government and the Shibuya City Tourism Association.  I believe continuing careful and thorough maintenance efforts will encourage more people to use public toilets and foster a spirit of omotenashi for the next person.

The findings of the survey reinforced my hope and expectation of what the project can achieve.

For this survey, “public toilets” are defined as toilets in department stores, movie theaters, and other commercial facilities, those in train and subway stations, in parks and along footpaths, in convenience stores, in restaurants, in hospitals, and in roadside rest areas.

(End)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
70% of Japanese Youths Use Public Toilets, But Have Negative Image of Them Depending on Location (1) [2021年07月27日(Tue)]
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Internationally renowned architect Mr. Kengo Kuma in front of a new public toilet he designed and unveiled in Nabeshima Shoto Park in Shibuya Ward, central Tokyo, on June 24, 2021. This is the ninth of the 17 public restrooms designed by 16 Japanese architects under THE TOKYO TOILET project launched last year by The Nippon Foundation.


Japanese toilets are attracting global attention as a symbol of the spirit of omotenashi, or selfless hospitality, as exemplified by a seat and lid that open and close automatically, a seat that warms up to provide maximum comfort, a flushing sound to mask bodily noises, an electronic bidet known as “Washlet” (a registered trademark of the Japanese toilet company TOTO Ltd.)that makes wash and blow-dry functions possible, and automatic deodorization.

But unlike public bathrooms in department stores, other commercial facilities and airports, toilets in parks and along footpaths suffer from an image problem: they are seen as dark, dirty, smelly and scary, causing many people to avoid using them.

To phase out these images, The Nippon Foundation launched THE TOKYO TOILET project last year to renovate public toilets at 17 locations in Shibuya Ward, central Tokyo, for use by anyone safely and in comfort regardless of gender, age or disability. These toilets are designed by 16 internationally-renowned architects, including four laureates of the Pritzker Architect Prize−often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel”−such as Mr. Tadao Ando, Mr. Toyo Ito, Mr. Shigeru Ban and Mr. Fumihiko Maki.

Recently, the ninth toilet installed under the project, designed by architect Mr. Kengo Kuma, was unveiled on June 24 inside the lush green surroundings of Nabeshima Shoto Park. (Mr. Kuma designed the new National Stadium in Tokyo, the main venue for the Olympic Games that opened on July 23 following a one-year delay due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.)

Against this background, The Nippon Foundation conducted a nationwide online survey on the subject of “public toilets” from May 14 to 18, covering 1,000 Japanese youths aged between 17 and 19.

The poll found that seven in 10 respondents (70.5%) use public toilets when they go out. But the frequency of use differs remarkably depending on where the toilets are located. More than half of respondents (57.1%) said they use toilets in department stores, movie theaters and other commercial facilities; on the other hand, only 13.5% said they regularly use bathrooms in parks and along footpaths.

Compared with other locations, young Japanese had a particularly negative image of toilets in parks and along footpaths with two in three respondents describing them as “dirty” (67.6%), followed by “smelly” (28.6%), “dark” (23.4%) and “dangerous” (22.8%). Positive impressions of their being “clean” and “safe” were cited by only 3.1% of respondents in each case.

Two in five Japanese youths (40.6%) said they hardly use bathrooms in parks and along footpaths, while almost a half (45.9%) said they do not use them at all.  Female respondents in particular noted the need for more safety and security measures at such public toilets with 27.2% describing them as dangerous (compared with 18.4% for males).  


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Do you use public toilets when you go out?


(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:51 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
Japan Launches Public Phone Relay Service for People with Hearing or Speech Disabilities (2) [2021年07月21日(Wed)]
Under the Act on Facilitating the Use of Telephones by the Hearing Impaired, etc., the relay service is financed by grants contributed by all the country’s telecommunication providers, which collect a “telephone relay service fee” from telephone users. The fee for fiscal 2021, which started in April, is 7 yen (about 6.4 cents) per phone number per year, which is added to the phone bill.

Relay service users with hearing and/or speech disabilities will be charged a monthly fee of 178.2 yen (about $1.62), including tax, plus 5.5 yen (about 5 cents) per minute for a fixed phone and 33 yen (about 30 cents) for a mobile phone. For those who choose not to pay a monthly fee, the telephone charge is 16.5 yen (about 15 cents) per minute for a fixed phone and 44 yen (about 40 cents) for a mobile phone. Emergency calls are free anytime.

The new undertaking, however, is not without problems as we experienced in the course of the foundation’s trial service from 2013. One of the biggest hurdles is that the hearing public is generally unaware of the existence of the relay service. It is still common for a hearing person to hang up on a deaf relay user after hearing only a few words because they think the caller is trying to sell something or making a scam call.

To overcome this obstacle, The Nippon Foundation Telecommunication Relay Service is working together with the Ministry for Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the telecommunications industry, consumer organizations and other stakeholders via an advertising campaign for television, newspapers and the Internet introducing the general public to the new relay service and how it works. It is also important to listen to the opinions of users in our quest to make any necessary improvements. Training enough quality sign language interpreters is one of the challenges the service faces.

The relay service provider started accepting applications for the new service on June 1. The number of registered users with hearing or speech disabilities now stands at about 3,000 and the provider aims to increase this to 14,000 by the end of the current fiscal year in March 2022.

I sincerely hope that as many hearing people as possible come to understand how the new service works so that those with a hearing or speech impairment can place telephone calls just like anybody else in a more inclusive society.

(End)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
Japan Launches Public Phone Relay Service for People with Hearing or Speech Disabilities (1) [2021年07月20日(Tue)]
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Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Ryota Takeda (center below) makes a demonstration call to Ms. Ikumi Kawamata, a staff member with The Nippon Foundation who is deaf  (above), during a ceremony to launch Japan's public phone relay service on July 1, 2021.

Japan has launched a public telephone relay service that enables people who are deaf or have a hearing and/or speech impairment to place phone calls via online assistants 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

It thus became the last of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies to create a public system offering barrier-free access to phone services. In the United States, for example, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act mandated the establishment of the nationwide telecommunications relay service for people with hearing or speech disabilities.

For the new service, which I believe is imperative for the country’s infrastructure, the Japanese Ministry for Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) designated earlier this year The Nippon Foundation Telecommunication Relay Service, a new partner organization of The Nippon Foundation, as a telephone relay service provider as called for under the 2020 Act on Facilitating the Use of Telephones by the Hearing Impaired, etc.

In a video message for the launch ceremony on July 1, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said: “The new service will allow anybody, regardless of disabilities, to easily make phone calls. I hope The Nippon Foundation Telecommunication Relay Service will play a due role in providing this important service.”

At the event, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Ryota Takeda made a demonstration call to Ms. Ikumi Kawamata, a staff member with The Nippon Foundation who is deaf, encouraging people to make full use of the relay service and expand the scope of their activities.

Speaking at the ceremony, I welcomed the launch of the service, which came eight years after The Nippon Foundation started providing a free-of-charge telephone relay service on a trial basis in 2013 with a view to prompting the government to take the initiative in this critically important undertaking.

The system enables people with hearing and/or speech disabilities to send messages in sign language or text using computers or smartphones, which will then be interpreted by communications assistants in real time so those on the other end of the call can understand them. Unlike our trial service, it is accessible 24/7 and can always handle emergency calls to police, fire stations, coast guard and hospitals.

To use the service, people with hearing or speech disabilities need to apply by a special app or email to be assigned a telephone number starting 050. This will also enable hearing people to call those who are hard-of-hearing or have speech difficulties directly

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:42 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
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