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Workers with disabilities face changes amid virus crisis

  • May 9, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 8:50 p.m.
  • English Press

Higashikagura, Hokkaido, May 9 (Jiji Press)–The coronavirus epidemic has caused a drastic change in the working environment for people with intellectual disabilities.


Yui Yui Honpo, a welfare office in the town of Higashikagura, Hokkaido, northernmost Japan, saw work for people with intellectual disabilities and autism decrease significantly as the cafe it operates is seeing few customers amid the epidemic.


The cafe employs around 20 people to cook and serve curry with rice and other simple dishes. However, there were days after the outbreak in which it had no customers.


The situation is a major issue, stripping the workers of opportunities to interact with local residents and to become independent through taking part in the management of the cafe.


Masato Nonomura, the head of the nonprofit organization operating the cafe, decided in mid-March to switch to selling handmade face masks. He called on workers to agree to the change, telling them that there are people suffering from a lack of masks.


The masks are made from two paper towels sewed together, with a set of two selling for 100 yen. The business is booming, and it cannot keep up with demand even if workers make around 50 sets a day, according to the organization.


“They are working while having fun around each other,” Nonomura said. “We are regaining the chance for the disabled workers to spend time with locals, with some coming to ask for masks that fit their faces.”


Akira Inafune, 25, one of the workers, said, “I’m happy I can be of help to others.”


“Even if circumstances change as a result of the novel coronavirus, it is necessary to create an environment suitable for people with disabilities to work,” Noboru Imamura, deputy leader of the Japan Council on Independent Living Centers, which comprises 122 workplaces for people with disabilities, said.



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