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Lawmakers with disabilities make up only 0.2% of local assemblies: poll

There are just eight lawmakers with disabilities in the assemblies of all 47 of Japan's prefectures plus the 20 specially designated cities with populations over 500,000, or only 0.2 percent of the seat total, a Mainichi Shimbun survey of local legislators with disabilities has found.

Currently, there are seven lawmakers who use wheelchairs and only one with a visual impairment. There is no public data about the number of assembly members with disabilities, and it is possible that there are others with internal disabilities, but it is clear that progress toward the participation of those with disabilities in politics is extremely limited.

The Mainichi surveyed the assembly offices and lawmakers in all prefectural assemblies (2,687 total seats) and those of specially designated municipalities' (1,183 total seats) about wheelchair users and others with physical disabilities, along with legislators that needed sign language interpreters dispatched or documents prepared in braille, and tallied up the data as of Dec. 1.

Of the seven lawmakers in wheelchairs, one each belonged to the Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectural assemblies, while the remaining five served in the municipal assemblies of Saitama, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kobe and Kumamoto. Among them, the members in Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures and Shizuoka began daily use of wheelchairs due to sickness or old age while serving their terms. One blind assembly member belonged to the Niigata Municipal Assembly. There were no deaf or hearing-impaired lawmakers in any assembly surveyed.

However, according to the 2017 edition of the white papers on people with disabilities in Japan, those with physical, hearing, or visual disabilities made up roughly 3.1 percent of all citizens. When those with an intellectual or mental disability are included, the percentage comes to roughly 6.7 percent -- hardly matching their ratio of representation in the legislature.

Looking at the lawmakers in the extraordinary session of the National Diet that closed this month, out of the 707 members of both houses, there were none who used a wheelchair or had visual or hearing impairments. However, House of Councillors Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) legislator Ryuhei Kawada is HIV positive due to being administered tainted blood products, and is officially recognized as having a physical disability.

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