1st July – 5th Central Headquarters member’s visit to Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture

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Below is the report of the East Japan Big Earthquake Deaf Rescue Central Headquarters (Central HQ) members’ visit to Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture from 1st July (Friday) to 5th July (Tuesday). Mr. Hisamatsu (Chief of Headquarters), Ms. Asai (sign language interpreter) and Ms. Okayasu (staff) went to Iwate and Miyagi to conduct an inspection and discuss about our future longitudinal support plan. We plan to visit Fukushima prefecture after deciding the dates.

1st July (Friday)

13:00 We visited the Iwate Disabilities Health and Welfare Division with Ms. Takahashi, the chief of Great East Japan Deaf Rescue Iwate Regional Headquarters (Iwate Regional HQ). We asked the division for cooperation to investigate the current situation of Deaf victims. The division responded that as a prefectural division they cannot provide the Deaf individuals’ information due to Private Information Protection but would like to provide possible support.

(Photo: At the Iwate Disabilities Health and Welfare Division *Click the photo to enlarge)

16:00 We discussed about our future support at Iwate Regional HQ at Iwate Blind and Deaf Information Center (will be referred to as Information Center) . (Participants: Head of Information Center; Mr. Suzuki, Chief of Iwate Regional HQ; Ms.Takahashi, Iwate Regional HQ Staff, Information Center Staff; Mr. Takahashi (sign language interpreter), Mr. Hisamatsu, Ms. Asai and Ms. Okayasu.)
・ We discussed about “Iwate Coastal investigation of victims (draft)” and decided to investigate according to the situation of Iwate. Detailed plan will be confirmed later.

2nd July (Saturday)

8:30 Headed for Miyako City on car of Ms.Takahashi (chief).

10:30 After meeting the members from the Iwate Deaf Association; Miyako Section and Miyako City People with Disabilities Welfare counseling staff at the Miyako City Hall, we headed for Tarou region where there were tremendous damage.
・ The wreckage were cleaned up but there are still damaged building that needs to be dismantled. According to the counseling staff, the population of Miyako City is a little less than sixty thousand and there are 70 Deaf people who possess ID books.
・ There are 7 members in the Iwate Deaf Association Miyako Section and 1 member were killed in the disaster.
・ The man who died probably knew about the earthquake but did not know about the tsunami so he probably failed to escape. Now his house was already dismantled so there was nothing remained of his house.

(Photo: The remains of the house of the Deaf who died in Miyako)

13:00 After lunch near the Miyako City Hall, we returned to Morioka.
・ The city hall was also soaked by water from the tsunami and the first floor and also shops were flooded but now it is cleaned up and many shops have started to open.

3rd July (Sunday)

10:00 – 12:00 We participated as an observer at the third Iwate Regional HQ Meeting.
・ There were reports from the member organizations. The Central HQ explained about the investigation of the Deaf in the coastal region and the prefecture’s cooperation. This was approved in the meeting.

(Photo: Iwate Central HQ Meeting)

12:30 – 14:00 Detailed discussion about the investigation of the current situation of Deaf victims with the Iwate Disabilities Welfare Division, Iwate Regional HQ, Information Center and Central Headquarters.
・ Confirmed the following plan:
Until end of July: Iwate Regional HQ will make a survey sheet to hand in to the Iwate Disabilities Welfare Division.
Beginning of August: These survey sheets will be sent (by post) from the Iwate Disabilities Welfare Division to Deaf people in the coastal region who has an ID book.
(Out of about 5000 ID book holders in Iwate, about 1000 Deaf live in the coastal area)
Middle of August: The survey sheets will be sent to Iwate Regional HQ
Until end of August: Iwate Regional HQ will provide the results of the survey

4th July (Monday)

8:30 Headed for Oofunato City on car of Ms.Takahashi (chief).

Around 11:00 Visiting the Oofunato City Hall Health and Welfare Division
・ They said that they have not gathered information of all the people with Disabilities so would appreciate our support.

11:30 Oofunato City Hall Health and Welfare Division staff took us to a home of the earthquake victim. We ate lunch with neighboring Deaf and Deaf who are now living in temporary housing.
・ Staff informed us that there are 2 Deaf living in temporary housing in Oofunato and there are also several hard of hearing people living in temporary housing.

18:00 Meeting with Great East Japan Earthquake Deaf Rescue Miyagi Regional Headquarters(Miyagi Regional HQ)
・ About public dispatch of sign language interpreters.
=> Ended in June but the Miyagi City Halls are also realizing the need for a staff sign language interpreter. For the time being, they will use the dispatch system but hope to work towards a staff interpreter to be placed in City Halls.
・ About psychological support
=> We explained about the longitudinal dispatch of coordinators of counseling staff. This is to match the needs of the situation to provide sufficient support and also to increase the numbers of Miyagi Deaf counseling staffs. This was approved.
・ About health counseling of sign language interpreters
=> The Health Measures Division members of the National Research Association for Sign Language Interpretation plan to take a central role in the health counseling of the interpreters. We received approval with the cooperation with the doctors in Miyagi.

5th July (Tuesday)

10:00 Visit to JDF Miyagi Support Center
(Central Headquarters: Mr. Hisamatsu, Ms. Asai, Mr. Koumi, Ms. Okayasu, Miyagi Regional HQ: Ms. Asano)

(Photo: JDF Miyagi Support Center)

14:00 Visited Miyagi Disabilities Welfare Division and discussed about the request that the Miyagi Deaf Association submitted to the prefecture in May.
Miyagi Prefecture: Mr. Mineura (Division Head), Mr. Koyano (Section Head), Mr. Saka and Ms. Akemi Takahashi (sign language interpreter)
Central Headquarters: Mr. Hisamatsu, Mr. Koumi, Ms. Okayasu (sign language interpreter), Ms. Asai
Miyagi Regional HQ: Mr. Koizumi, Mr. Asano, Ms. Sato

(Photo: At the Miyagi Prefectural Office)

1. About the request submitted in May
(1) About establishing an Information Providing Facility
We will continue the discussion with the prefecture so that they will understand the functions and the necessity of an Information Providing Facility by preparing materials.
(2) About the placement of sign language interpreting staff
Now there is increasing need for sign language interpreting for recovery and reconstruction. Public dispatch ended in June but Natori city and Watari town will place an interpreter once a week from July using the dispatch service. Yet once a week is insufficient since the Deaf have to set their schedule according to the days when interpreters are available. We need to request for full-time placement.

2. About Iwate Coastal investigation of victims
A survey will be conducted in August by Iwate using regional support service. Similar method will be implemented to ask all disabilities ID book holders to cooperate in a survey.

3. About dispatch of psychological care experts
According to the two investigations by medical and psychological team, psychological care was necessary in large area of disaster struck regions. Central Headquarters will send experts to Miyagi for one year and will request for cooperation from the prefecture.

[ Issues ]

  • Deaf victims must be able to explain and request so that the victims themselves can raise more awareness and understanding of what is necessary.
  • If the city or prefectural staff change, all necessary information should be passed on to the next staff. Therefore recording information is crucial.
  • It is necessary to create study groups to work towards the establishment of Information Providing Facilities.
  • In some temporary housing there are places without telephone lines or there are places with telephones but no faxes so the Deaf cannot use these devices. It is important to think in a national level with other disability organizations for barrier free of temporary housing.

[ Comment ]

  • We expected that the 3 places that we visited will have different needs. By actually going to the 3 places we were able to understand many things.
  • The hearing staff are also victims of the disaster so it is difficult to specifically focus on Deaf support.
  • 3 months have passed since the earthquake and we are realizing our mental and physical fatigue. Yet through our hard work of support, we now are able to realize things that we could not think of before and we are becoming aware of the need for reexamination of thes support for the regional headquarters.

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