As mentioned in a previous post, recently two women with hearing impairments won seats in the recent municipal elections. The city first considered using a sign-language interpreter but has opted for implementing a new system instead.
Famous for being a club hostess who communicated only with note, Rie Saito won a seat in the Kita Ward Assembly in April. Being inspired by the coming 2020 Olympics, she ran to “create a world where people with disabilities can actively be involved”. Her very presence has started that change.
The system, developed by Fujitsu, will be a first in Japanese assemblies.
When addressing the assembly, Ms. Saito will type into a computer at the podium. The text will be converted to speech and broadcast through a speaker for all to hear. In reverse, anything said in the assembly will be converted to text and displayed on a tablet for her to read.
In addition to this, four other tablets have been prepared so that observers who are deaf or have hearing impairments can follow along with the proceedings.
Ms. Saito said “I feel like I’m finally standing on the starting line” according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The system had been planned as far back as 2013, but had been sitting on the back-burner.
In reality, the system isn’t all that complex. With today’s technology, it can be done on a person-to-person basis with a mobile phone. However, I think that is an important point – often making adaptations for people with disabilities is easier than most people assume. Often, there just needs to be a catalyst, in this case Ms. Saito’s election.