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Voting support offered to disabled for Tokyo Met. Assembly election

A visually impaired person tries out the "Yahoo Japan audible election" website, in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward. (Mainichi)

As the capital prepares for the July 2 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, moves to provide voting support for the disabled are spreading.

    In addition to websites informing visually impaired people about the election, DVDs have been produced to support the intellectually disabled in the voting process. It is hoped such moves will facilitate the process for the approximately 106,000 visually and intellectually disabled people in Tokyo who are of voting age.

    On June 22, IT colossus Yahoo Japan Corp. launched a specially designed "Yahoo Japan audible election" website (https://kikoeru.yahoo.co.jp) to support visually impaired voters in Tokyo. On the site, there are four key sections, titled, "Know the candidates," "Compare manifestos," "Policy questionnaire results," and "Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election column." Each of these sections provides useful audible information powered by special software.

    In addition, electoral management committees across the capital have been distributing Braille and CD versions of campaign bulletins to interested applicants. Furthermore, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has been providing helpful information online about the election for visually impaired people.

    However, there have been a few teething troubles. For example, as a result of presenting the information in the form of PDF files -- in order to avoid forgery online -- the audio software has not been able to identify text correctly, meaning that the information has not always been delivered smoothly.

    According to a survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 90 percent of visually impaired people use the internet. Akira Hiyama, 36, who is visually impaired, says, "The internet is easy to access, and people have plenty of time to think about who to vote for. I want to vote for a candidate who cares about the welfare of people with disabilities." Hiyama supervised Yahoo's special website.

    In addition, an association of families of people with intellectual disabilities, which was set up in the Tokyo suburban city of Komae in December 2016, has produced a DVD called "Let's go and vote!" aimed at people with disabilities, their supporters and municipal employees. This action was taken because in some cases, some people with disabilities gave up on trying to vote, with local authorities not really knowing how to provide support. The DVD explains the voting process, and provides information about how to support voters with intellectual disabilities.

    In making the DVD, a script was written in consultation with an electoral management committee, and a simulation of people casting their votes inside a city hall was filmed. In order to avoid any violations of the Public Offices Election Act, the way in which "proxy voting" can be done is explained as well. It is thought that the local city hall will show the DVD to its employees prior to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election during an explanatory meeting.

    Michiko Morii, 60, who is head of the families' association, says, "By understanding the voting process in advance, voters with disabilities can approach the voting booth with peace of mind. Every single vote counts, so we must not give up on casting a ballot."

    The DVD, priced at 1,404 yen (excluding shipping costs), has been promoted to special-needs schools and support groups across the country, and so far about 80 DVDs have been sold. For further inquiries, contact the Fujitsu FOM group on 03-5401-8462.

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