Two lawmakers with serious paralysis took their seats in Japan’s upper house on Thursday to cheers from supporters, marking the first time people with severe disabilities have served in the body.
Yasuhiko Funago and Eiko Kimura won seats last month in the country’s upper house election and their use of special reclining wheelchairs has required modifications to the Japanese parliament.
The pair both rely on caretakers for support, and their election has highlighted the fact that Japan only pays for such care if the disabled person is not working.
The lawmakers and disabled rights activists say this effectively penalises those with disabilities who want to work.
Japan’s upper house has agreed to pay for Funago and Kimura’s caretakers, but the new lawmakers want the rules changed more broadly.
“It will take a long time to change the system, but we will work hard in parliament to correct this big problem,” Kimura told cheering supporters outside the Diet building as the new parliament session began.
“I am surprised that so many people came here,” added Funago, speaking with help from his caretaker.
“I will do my best to live up to everyone’s expectations.”
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