A lawmaker with severe physical disabilities attended his first parliamentary interpellation since being elected in July and became the first lawmaker in Japan ever to use an electronically-generated voice during a Diet session.
In the session of the education, culture and science committee, Yasuhiko Funago, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, greeted the committee using a speech synthesiser. He also asked questions through a proxy speaker.
As a newcomer, I am still inexperienced, but with everyone’s assistance, I will do my best to tackle issues,” he said at the beginning of the session. An aide then posed questions on his behalf and expressed his desire to see improvements in the learning environment for disabled children.
“Lack of knowledge about the reality of disabled people leads to prejudice and discrimination,” Funago said, as he proposed an “inclusive education” system where children with and without disabilities can study together. Sitting in a wheelchair, Funago participated in the interpellation session, accompanied by his secretary and caregiver. He brought along a computer equipped with a speech synthesiser and a monitor to view documents.
The committee chairman paused proceedings each time Funago had to compose a question for his aide to vocalise by using his eyes to scan a transparent character board, to ensure it was not included in his allocated question time.