Institute of Ars Vivendi, Ritsumeikan University, organized Webinar on COIVD-19 and Persons with Disabilities in East Asia on 18 July 2020 as East Asia Disability Studies Forum 2020.
East Asia Disability Studies Forum started in 2010 as a venue for dialogue on disability studies between Japan and Korea. Now it has expanded to include disability studies groups from Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan and serves as the only standing forum on disability studies in East Asia. It was to be hosted by the Institute of Ars Vivendi in Kyoto in September, but COVID-19 pandemic has prevented it.
The Forum was opened by Dr. Matsubara Yoko, vice-president of Ritsumeikan University (RU) and graced by the remarks by Prof. Ishikawa Jun of University of Shizuoka, vice-chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Then each group reported on the COVID-19 and persons with disabilities. From RU, Dr. Otani Izumi, vice-director of the Institute made a presentation on ”The Covid-19 Crisis and the Experience of Polio Survivors: Life Before and After a Pandemic” and Ms. Ito Kasumi, Ph.D. candidate, Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, on “Impact of the COVID-19 on Persons with Psychosocial Disabilities in Japan”. The Q& A session was facilitated by Prof. Zhang Wanhong, National University of Wuhan, who was the host of the Forum 2019. The Forum was closed by Prof. Tateiwa Shinya and Prof. Nagase Osamu served as the moderator.
East Asia in general has been successful in controlling the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths so far but from the perspective of protection of human rights of persons with disabilities during this pandemic, the Forum has identified a number of common regional challenges, made worse during this pandemic. They include the lack of physical and information accessibility, institutionalization, lack of community living supports and resources, under-participation in the decision-making, and ableist ideology which under-values the life of persons with disabilities. Also it was made clear that the distancing has created more problems for persons who use tactile information, such as blind and deafblind people, as well as those with physical disabilities, who make use of personal assistance. Some of these challenges can be solved by the application of “reasonable accommodation” which means necessary modifications and adjustments for persons with disabilities.
The Institute put in a lot of efforts in making the Forum accessible by providing this English seminar with the interpretation into Japanese, which was captioned and interpreted into Japanese Sign Language. Similar efforts were made by Chinese counterparts. The English programme as well as PPTs and papers in English are available. It was encouraging to have the participation from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University through the support of Center for Inclusive Leadership headed by Prof. Alcantara Lailani Laynesa.
The Institute of Ars Vivendi currently gives top priority to analyze COVOD-19 and its implications to our way of life and has organized three webinars with information accessibility , namely interpretation into Japanese Sign Language and captioning.
The COVID-19 pandemic can widen the existing gaps in our society, including the ones created by ableism. But as we face this crisis squarely, we try to promote inclusion and diversity, by securing on-line accessibility, for instance. The East Asia Disability Studies Forum 2020 has proved not only that it is needed but also it can be done.