In her article “Is ‘disability’ still a dirty word in Japan?” Tomoko Otake writes:
“Government statistics show that, out of a population of around 127 million, some 3.5 million are physically disabled, 2.5 million are mentally ill and 500,000 are mentally disabled. That’s a total of around 6.5 million individuals.
But where are they? Granted, we see more station elevators, wheelchair-accessible toilets and buses with passenger lifts nowadays. Such facilities are visible, but many people hardly ever encounter those who use them — let alone anyone with non-physical disabilities. In fact, apart from people with disabled family members or friends, most Japanese quite likely live their whole lives without ever interacting with their disabled fellow citizens.”
While much of Otake’s report is disheartening, to say the least, she does note that Uniqlo, semi-official clothier of the Kamata family, has made it company policy to hire at least one disabled person at each of its stores. Maybe Lilia’s dream of working at a clothing store will come true. (In another article, Otake reports that Starbucks in Japan is now hiring deaf workers.)