USICD in Solidarity with Japanese Disability Community

March 17, 2011

March 17, 2011: USICD members, staff, and board have joined people around the world in watching events in Japan after a severe 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the eastern-north part of their country on March 11, 2011.  A subsequent massive tsunami has caused even further damage, including damage to nuclear reactors in Japan.  USICD wishes to extend its sympathy and support to the people of Japan during this difficult time.  USICD staff member Andrea Shettle is monitoring the situation in Japan to assist in sharing information about the impact of the recent disaster, particularly for people with disabilities in Japan.

Both people with and people without disabilities in northeast Japan now confront challenges in sheltering themselves and obtaining adequate food and clean water.  “People with disabilities are often disproportionately impacted by humanitarian emergencies.  Early reports from contacts with the disability community in Japan seem to indicate that this emergency is no exception,” says Andrea Shettle.  In addition to the usual challenges that their non-disabled peers must confront, it has been reported that people using respirators have had difficulty obtaining the electric power they need for their respiration equipment.  Also, personal assistants in Japan are frequently unable to reach the homes of people using their services.

The disability community in Japan is in the process of organizing themselves to ensure that people with disabilities in Japan are not left behind during this time of crisis.  Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) in Japan have coordinated to launch an emergency disaster relief office at the Japan Council of Independent Living Centers (JIL) and appointed Shoji Nakanishi as director.  Operations for the Relief Headquarters for Persons with Disabilities of Tohoku-Kanto Great Earthquake opened on March 15, 2011, four days after the earthquake struck.  As of March 22, it will be possible for people outside Japan to make donations via credit cards.  In the meantime, the Relief Headquarters has urged people to head up their own local collections so they will be ready to forward donations once they can be accepted.

More information about the situation of people with disabilities in post-disaster Japan will continue to be shared at the USICD website as it becomes available.  This will include an announcement  In the meantime, read an appeal from the Relief Headquarters Earthquake that shares what is known as of March 17 and that urges relief organizations to take the needs of people with disabilities into consideration.  Rehabilitation International has released a statement of support for the people of Japan and a press release reinforcing the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities are not left behind in current recovery and future reconstruction efforts in Japan.