Category Archives: Online Resources

Our Movement for Promoting the Establishment of a Sign Language Law in Japan

Our Movement for Promoting the Establishment
of a Sign Language Law in Japan

The Circumstances Around Deaf People in Japan

For over 70 years, the Japanese Federation of the Deaf has, has fought to realize an environment where sign language communication and information access are guaranteed. After the establishment of the country’s first school for the deaf in Kyoto in 1878 (Meiji 11), the number of schools increased to over a hundred across the course of the Taisho (1912 – 1926) and Showa periods (1926 – 1989). The alumni associations of these schools became the foundation for the establishment of groups and national organizations for the deaf, which would become the driving force for bringing the issue of social recognition of sign language to the government.

However, that’s not to say it’s been a smooth road from the time when deaf persons would be scorned with derogatory terms like oshi and tsumbo to now, when the establishment of a law surrounding sign language is now being considered. To begin with, after 1920 (Taisho 9), it became a common misunderstanding in deaf schools that sign language would impede Japanese language acquisition, so many of these schools purposely eradicated sign language from practice. Even so, the children, students, and graduates and deaf schools continued to use sign language for communication. The fact that sign language continued to be used and develop even throughout a period of intense suppression shows the innate human need for language acquisition. In spite of this, over a long period of time, sign language acquisition continued to be put off by deaf education, and deaf people felt a sense of inferiority for using it.

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The Five Sign Language Rights

The Five Sign Language Rights

The 5 Rights Created through a Domestic Research Survey by the Project to Push the Creation of a Sign Language Law

The Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD) received assistance from the Nippon Foundation in 2010 and started the project to push to creation of a sign language law, where they ran domestic and international surveys. In the international survey, they looked at countries and regions which had established sign language laws, and the results are summarized in “The Status of Legal Recognition of Sign Language in Countries Around the World”. In contrast, the domestic survey, which formed the foundation of the “five sign language rights” covered in this section, was run with the intention to make clear what deaf people’s experiences have been when it comes to discrimination against sign language.

Extracting data from surveys conducted in the past, individual hearings of deaf persons, back catalogues and related materials from the JFD’s newspaper bulletin Japanese News for the Deaf, and other documents and material related to deaf and hearing impaired persons, we counted 1,214 cases of discrimination against sign language, and separated them into the following five different categories as a result of our analysis.

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President’s message in enforcing “Act for Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities” and “Amended Act on Promotion for Disabled Persons’ Employment” starting on April 1st, 2016

Message in Japanese Sign Language:

Message in International Sign:

Flash report – March 3rd, 2016 – Arguments in writing for “Japanese Sign Language Act” adopted by 100% of local municipal councils throughout the country

“Flash report”, March 3rd, 2016

Congratulations!

Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD) would like to announce with great pleasure that the local council of Haga-machi in Tochigi prefecture adopted the arguments in writing (as a kind of petition) requesting Government of Japan to enact “Japanese Sign Language Act” today.

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One year since Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Today marks the first year since the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011. The entire world was shaken by the news of this devastating natural disaster.

The earthquake was so intense that we could barely stand on our feet and the enormous tsunami that followed washed away towns along the northeastern coast, destroying everything and killing thousands of people. Even worse, it triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in history.

At that moment, we could do nothing but just stare at televisions feeling helpless and vulnerable to the power of Mother Nature. However, we knew that immediate action was needed to help Deaf survivors and announced a meeting with ZENTSUKEN and Japanese Association of Sign Language Interpreters (JASLI) to organize Central Headquarters for Disaster Relief for Deaf People in the Great East Japan Earthquake to respond to this disaster.

Thanks to all the supporters, we were able to provide relief goods, to dispatch sign language interpreters as well as to host events to encourage survivors and to offer emotional support service in the affected area.

We raised more than 60 million yen (USD 750,000) to support Deaf survivors through the generosity of friends from all over the world. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your contribution and encouragement.

Over the course of the year, it seems things are gradually settling down. However, many people still are going through a hard, tough time, some lost their job, some still live in temporary homes and some suffer from trauma. The journey to recovery has just begun and we are committed to support them until they get back their normal life.

As for relief funds, the fundraising target amount has not been achieved and we do not have enough funds to distribute necessary money for all the Deaf survivors. As the deadline for accepting donations has been extended, we ask your continuous support for our relief efforts.

We cannot recover everything which was lost by this tragedy, but we will stand by the people from the disaster-stricken areas and continue to support them until they recover their physical and emotional health and get back their normal lives with a safe place to live and a decent job before the earthquake and tsunami.

Although it is expected that recovery will take many years, we will dedicate ourselves to help them as long as we are needed. Your continued support and contribution will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

March 11, 2012
Fujisaburo Ishino
Chief, Great East Japan Earthquake Central Headquarters

Sign Language Stated in Law!

Revised Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities Enacted on July 29, Promulgated on August 5

The bill of revision of the Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities, which states “language (including sign language)”, was approved unanimously in the House of Councilors on July 29, 2011. It was promulgated and came into effect on August 5.

The revised Act includes a statement of “language (including sign language)” in the Article 3(iii) and became the first law in Japan that has recognized sign language as a language.

Article 3 (Cohesion in Local Communities, etc.)

(iii) Every person with disabilities, wherever possible, shall be ensured opportunities to choose his or her language (including sign language) and/or other means of communication, and the expansion of opportunities to choose his or her means of acquiring or utilizing information shall be promoted.

Donations Toward JFD’s Earthquake Disaster Relief Efforts

(post updated July 4th, 2011)

Dear all concerned,

We highly appreciate your sincere concern and condolences to the people affected by the Earthquake and Tsunami which hit the Tohoku area in Japan on March 11, 2011.

We are currently accepting donations by bank transfer and credit card. Donated funds will be used for support of the Deaf and deaf-related people, the cost for sign language interpreters, notetakers, Deaf counseling, medical professionals, volunteers and other necessary materials.

Please find information necessary for donating here. Your support is greatly appreciated.

If you have any questions, please contact us via our contact form.

About the Earthquake

Dear All,

First of all, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of you for showing your heartfelt concerns and condolences in the extremely difficult time.

We, the Japanese Federation of the Deaf, have already launched the “Headquarters for Disaster Relief for deaf people in the Great East Japan Earthquake”. We are doing our utmost to gather information about deaf victims and support of them, and providing it on our main website.

We have created an English page with information on the earthquake, including details on where to send donations:

Earthquake Information in English: http://www.jfd.or.jp/en/quake2011

We cordially ask you to refrain from directly contacting the disaster-stricken area about donations and volunteering.

Thank you for understanding.

Best regards,
Japanese Federation of the Deaf

WFD President acknowledges support towards JFD’s activities for developing laws

On behalf of Japanese Federation of the Deaf, we would like to announce that we received the following statement by Mr. Markku Jokinen, the President of the World Federation of the Deaf, which acknowledges support to our activities to develop two following laws: Access to Information & Communication Act (Tentative) and Sign Language Act (Tentative).

Along with the President’s statement, we would like to go forward with strong will and positive intent to work on development of the two laws to promote human rights of deaf persons.

Statement by President Jokinen
translated into Japanese

(PFD file)
Statement by President Jokinen
in English

(PFD file)

The Common Desire of the World Deaf Community… The Official Recognition of Sign Language in Legislation

By Eiichi Takada – August 25, 2004

(English translation based on an article which appeared in the Oct. 25, 2004 edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper)

The United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on a “Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities” is now in the process of discussing the contents of the convention. The Fourth Session of the Ad Hoc Committee, held from August 23 to September 3, was attended, not only by the Japanese government delegation, but also by a delegation of Japanese disability-related NGOs.

As the common desire of all the Deaf persons or persons with profound hearing disabilities throughout the world, the Deaf community is now focusing on the need to define sign languages as full-fledged languages.

It is true that sign language is becoming better understood by society at large, and people no longer look at us with curiosity when we are signing in public. Sign language often appears even in TV dramas. Most people, however, mistakenly believe that sign language is an alternative form of expressing spoken languages. Sign languages are still discriminated in that they are not recognized to be languages, equal to spoken languages.

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