As of 22 April 2009 this website is 'frozen' in time — see the current IFLA websites
This old website and all of its content will stay on as archive –
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, their nationwide research statistics shows that the number of deaf-blind people in Japan is estimated between 13,000 to 24,000. However, the Japan Deaf-Blind Association  has identified only 434 deaf-blind people as of May 1998. In other words, a lot of deaf-blind people are either at home or in institutions, having difficulties to participate in the social activities.
A variety of communication manners is exercised amongst the deaf-blind community such as touch sign language, typing with braille directly on their fingers (finger braille), writing characters on their palm (print on palm), finger spelling, writing on paper, etc. Some deaf-blind people are able to articulate several communication manners, depending upon their audiences.
Most of deaf-blind children in Japan are generally educated either in a school for the blind or in a school for the deaf with other students who have a visual disability or a hearing disability. After graduating from the school, some of these people may be employed in a special workshop where simple job is provided, and some are massage workers, but the majority seems like still unemployed. As we have no special vocational rehabilitation center for the deaf-blind at present, the training is usually provided in institutions for people with disabilities other than the deaf-blind.
The welfare for the deaf-blind took a slow movement compared to other fields of welfare of people with disabilities. Since 1990, we, the deaf-blind people started becoming more active, establishing groups of ourselves, and trying to participate in the society across the country.
Needless to say, deaf-blind people are not able to see completely or have a very low vision, and at the same time cannot hear completely or are hard-of-hearing. Since both ears and eyes, which are important organs for information, are damaged at the same time, it is difficult to gain access to information. Deaf-blind people are considered as people with serious information disability and are so different from people with one single disability such as either blindness or deafness. Deaf-blind people cannot communicate with their voice as people with a visual impairment can. They cannot receive visual information such as characters, visual image and landscapes through their eyes as people with hearing impairment can. In addition to lack of information, deaf-blind people who cannot communicate with the world outside may fall into mental loneliness, which may accumulate stress and in some cases result in serious mental crisis.
Of course, overwhelming flood of information might be a problem, however, deaf-blind people are hardly exposed to the 'air' of information. Human beings should die without 'air'; therefore, overcoming the information disability is an important issue for the deaf-blind to live an active independent life in the society.
As I referred earlier, there are variety of information media and the world is filled with transmission of information. For example, there are increasing number of TV channels including satellite broadcasting. The competition among TV programs is also increasing. However, for the deaf-blind people sitting in front of a TV unit, the unit itself is only a useless box. So is a telephone. There is no telephone system that deaf-blind people can use. Even the TDD system for the deaf, which is available in the U.S. and in Sweden, is not available in Japan.
Under the circumstances, are you aware of the existence of braille and magnified characters which is accessible by the deaf-blind without an assistance of someone else? Most of people with deaf-blindness can read and write with either braille or enlarged letters. Through reading and writing, deaf-blind people may have access to information around them. Thus braille, for the deaf-blind who has already acquired braille literacy, and magnified characters, for partially sighted deaf people, are acting as most important bridge to information. I believe that, if a deaf-blind person may read and write either braille or enlarged characters, he or she may have access to information even though it is not sufficient.
Available information resources in braille are as follows. (Large print availability is far limited compared with braille. We must raise awareness on demands for large print.)
Nowadays, there are good news for the hearing blind such as increase of talking books or screen reading software development. However, there is not much going on for braille developments. Even decline of braille readership is concerned. There are many low vision-deaf people who require large print. I would like to urge you to increase large print book collections. Of course information interpreters/assistants are most important patners to gain access to information.
Braille, large print and interpreter/assistant; starting with these three essentials, let us move forward for "participation of the deaf-blind in information society". Hoping to have a new information media for the deaf-blind.
Translated from original Japanese text by: Hiromi Morikawa, JSRPD & Hiroshi Kawamura, SRPD
Japan Deaf-Blind Association