Hearing high school student awarded first place in National Sign Language Speech Contest in Tokyo

The 27th National Sign Language Speech Contest for High School Students was held in Tokyo on August 28. Sponsoring was such as the Japanese Federation of the Deaf.

Ayaka Hosokawa, a high school senior from Hokkaido and a member of the sign language club, won the first award in the contest. She is full with pleasure, saying that "It is an honor for all the club members".

The club in Muroran-Sakae High School has participated in the contest in a row since 3 years ago. About 70 students from across the country applied for this contest.

Ayaka passed both the manuscript examination, and the video examination that she made a presentation with spoken and sign languages at the same time. She was one of the ten students selected to the final stage.

Ayaka was given the members' severe advice while practicing, and she repeatedly practiced hand movement. "I have always felt their encouragement and support from a long distance, so I was relaxed enough to make presentation in the final stage".

Ayaka will leave the sign language club after coming back from Tokyo. She says, "I came across sign language, which gave me power to tell my thought. I would like to teach the younger students the skill to sign, and use it to help someone in the future, too".

Deaf university student producing TV program on the job training

Tomoka Nakamura (19), a Deaf-born student, is working on the production of a one-hour-long program titled "Remove the Gap" since August 17 on the job training at the Ishigaki Cable TV station in Okinawa Prefecture.

She majors in international communications at the Department of Humanity and Science in Okinawa University.

The theme of the program, which she is making with the help of the interpreter, is related to the gap between the Deaf and hearing people which should be removed.

She met both the parties and interviewed them, such as "What is it inconvenient for the Deaf?", "How does the hearing people find the person to whom they speak is Deaf?", etc. to show the differences between the parties and promote understanding of each other.

The program under production will be captioned as Nakamura says, "I would be happy if the program sends the message clearly to the viewers".

Development of software called "Speech Support" completed in Shimane Prefecture

The Deaf staff writes sentences on the computer screen of touch panel type . (photo: http://mytown.asahi.com/shimane/news.php?k_id=33000001008260001)

A software, called "Speech Support" (15,800 yen), which speaks Japanese with a composite tone when sentences are input in the personal computer, was developed.

A nonprofit organization that supports social participation of persons with disabilities in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture has worked on the project with a local company.

The project, funded about 3.5 million yen by Mitsubishi Foundation, was completed in July, 2010 after two years.

About 500 kinds of sentences frequently used in the daily life are already installed in the software to help the person having difficulty in speech.

University examination course for Deaf students by sign language and caption held in Tokyo

To support Deaf high school students to take the university examination, the examination measures course, taught by the university professors and postgraduates with the use sign language and caption, has been held at Tokyo.

About 20 percent of Deaf high school seniors go to college/university while more than half of the hearing counterparts does.

The university examination course for the Deaf high school students started in June at Shinjuku, Tokyo. The interpreter stands near the lecturer in the classroom, and his remarks are projected through the computer assisted real-time caption system.

The course, arranged mainly by the Japanese College of Social Work and funded by The Nippon Foundation, both located at Tokyo, started in full scale this year after last year's trial.

Japanese language, English, and mathematics are taught weekly at three levels from the beginner's class to the advanced one in the evening after school. Each lecture is paid by the student for 1,000 yen.

A Deaf high school senior (17) in the mainstream program applied for the course after learning from the Internet. He says, "When I questions at the school, the teacher will reply in writing, but I don't occasionally understand easily. I really understand the lecture in the sign language and the caption system".

Other Deaf high student freshman (15) once attended the cram school when he was a junior high school student. He didn't understand what the teacher said and quit. He says, "Being possible to question in the class here by sign language is very good".

The course will be over for the first term in August, and the last term restarts in September until November .

Expensive fire-alarm device at home unpopular for the Deaf

The fire-alarm device used in the house is not popular among for the Deaf possibly due to the high price.

The fire-alarm device in the house, which catch smoke and heat and warn the resident of a fire, will be required to be installed in every house by June 1, 2011. However, most of the devices are auditory, ineffective to the Deaf.

A Deaf man, who lived in the second floor of an apartment house in Tokyo, slept through unaware of the fire occurred in the right one under his room. He was surprised to know of the fire when he got up in the morning. Even he did not hear the ambulance siren at that time.

The flash-light type of the fire-alarm device is effective for the Deaf, which only two companies have produced. Moreover, it is expensive; about 18,000 yen.

The single-unit, consisting of a radio signal type received by the wristwatch-type alarm vibrates, costs about 50,000 yen, too. High price is a big hurdle to get.

The Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Fire and Disaster Management Agency has started the "study committee concerning the ideal way of the fire warning equipment, etc. that meets the needs of the Deaf and hard of hearing that composes of the scholars, the Deaf, and the industry groups, etc. in June, 2010.

The committee discusses the means of the alarm system accessibility to the senior citizen and the Deaf, not only in the house, but also the public facilities such as airports and shopping centers. This agency says, "The spread of more alarm units for the Deaf will be examined overall".

Government agency to investigate appropriate method of alarm unit to help the Deaf

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency under the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications decided to investigate the problem for the spread of the fire-alarm device accessible to Deaf persons on August 5. Over 100 Deaf people will be asked to cooperate.

This investigation will search for the standard of the fire-alarm device and needs in the installation location, and make it help to develop a measure including the fire fighting law revision.

According to the Agency, the method of transmitting fire occurrence information will be asked about what method, such like flash light, the vibration, and the stench, etc is most convenient, and which combination of these methods is more effective, as well as the installation location. Also an effective measure like the subsidy system, etc. for the spread of the alarm device will be asked.

Based on the result of the questionnaire, the Agency will prepare a model room with the alarm unit to test several types of the alarm unit for the Deaf to experience in order to find out the effectiveness of the type of alarm unit. The result of the questionnaire will be reported in December.

There are little alarm units for the Deaf at time of a fire in public facilities, the hotels, and the restaurants; the most used method is no other than the sound, so there is much concerned that the Deaf would be left out when the fire occurs.

First pair of user and hearing dog passing test; appeal of more hearing dogs

A pair of the user and hearing dog first was certified each in Niigata and Nagano prefectures in February, 2010.

They are Junko Kato (68) with her hearing dog "Ikoma" (six-year-old Shih Tzu) from Niigata Prefecture, and Kumiko Murasawa (44) with her dog "Karu" (two-year-old beagles) from Nagano Prefecture.

They passed the qualifying examination of the Hearing Dogs Society, a non-profit organization to train and certify hearing dogs in Nagano Prefecture.

Neither the misunderstanding nor the prejudice about the hearing dog disappear because a social acknowledgment level is lower than the guide dog for the Blind. Parties concerned including the users are appealing, "We want people to know the hearing dog for the Deaf more".

The training of the hearing dog for the Deaf started in 1981 in Japan. There are 23 training groups according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

The Hearing Dogs Society, a leading group, picks up abandoned dogs that have the aptitude from the public health center, trains them for one and a half years or up to two years. Then a Deaf person as a partner lives with one of these dogs for several months. The pair takes the qualifying examination .

Junko Kato visited the Niigata Prefectural government, met with Vice Governor Kazuo Jinbo recently with her hearing dog "Ikoma", and appealed for support for more hearing dogs.

Only 20 hearing dogs are officially recognized in the country now. The Law Concerning Assistance Dogs for the Disabled enforced in 2002 recognizes that three kinds of guide dogs, each for the Blind, Deaf and persons with physical disability as an assistance dog equally. Yet, many public facilities refuse the admission of such a dog.

"Easy Cooking Class" for persons with disability to be instructed by Deaf woman in Aichi Prefecture

Rie Shibata (right) cuts carrot thrust into nail of cutting board by one hand.
(photo: http://www.chunichi.co.jp/article/national/news/CK2010080202000180.html)

A day-care service facility in a suburb of Toyokawa City, Aichi Prefecture is preparing an "Easy Cooking Class With One Hand" for persons whose one side has become paralyzed.

The lecturer will be Rie Shibata (20), one of the facility staff. She is Deaf and enthusiastic about a new project, saying "I want to encourage people who have lost self-assurance, to enjoy what they can".

The cooking class was experimentally opened in July. The woman with a paralyzed right hand cut the carrot, which was thrust into the nail struck back of the cutting board, with the kitchen knife gripped by one hand. She made a set of boiled vegetable in about two hours and showed the smile to the dish after a long time.

Rie went to a vocational training school for one year after she graduated from Toyohashi School for the Deaf, and is a licensed cook.

Masaaki Otsuka, the chief director of the facility, who met Rie and was impressed with her serious, earnest attitude. He thought, "Her positive attitude will surely encourage persons paralyzed. Let her teach the cooking class".

Rie, who was puzzled at the offer, visited the facility and became interested. "I can also live just like any able-bodied person if a little help is given though I am Deaf. The person with a disability must be the same".

Rie cooks and writes down what is necessary for the cooking every day. She says of her aspiration, "I want to increase something more that can be done with one hand everyday".

The "Easy Cooking Class With One Hand", offered in the facility every day, is scheduled to start on September 1. The staff will help Rie with interpreting and note-taking.

Sign language musical to take place in Yokohama City

It was the tenth anniversary for the Sign Language Performance Kiirogumi (Yellow Group) a musical company located in Tokyo that focuses on the use of sign language in musical since it had started.

Their wish that more people appreciate the beauty of sign language has extended to the provinces. Performers and staff are selected through the public audition, varied in the age from 5 until 65.

Ruruka Minami (49), a certified interpreter, and other two persons started the musical company in 1989. So far about 40 members in total including the Deaf are involved. The company has performed in various places nationwide, and presented the show in Seoul, South Korea, too.

In the show, the audience can enjoy both the spoken language and sign language at the same time while the actors perform, sing and dance along with sign language.

The company will present a new show titled "The Magic of Happiness" at the center in Yokohama City at 10:30 and 14:00 on August 29.

Twelve persons, aged from 12 to 41, will perform this year after the audition in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture.

The ticket in the advance sale is 2,500 yen, 1,500 yen for elementary school children, and free for 3 years old or younger.

Theatrical company to present 13th performance in Kyoto

The 13th performance, titled "The Two Blue Skies", will be presented in Kyoto City by "Ashita no Kai", a theatrical company, two times at 14:00 and 19:00 on Saturday, August 28, and at 14:00 on Sunday, August 29.

Admission fee: Adult 2,000 yen
(1,000 yen for students between elementary school and high school)

The performance is composed of two different 'one-man shows' for the 15th anniversary of the company since its establishment in Kyoto.

The youth was completely different each other for the both Deaf men. One of them was educated in a democratic way during the post-war time since 1945, while another turned 20 years old in the militarism era of the 1930's.

The performance is based on the true story of what a Deaf man experienced in Hokkaido during the war. The two performers are the ever youngest actors, each telling a story about himself in sign language. It is a new, challenging composition as the play.

Vending machines set up to alert the Deaf about disaster in Hyogo Prefecture

The vending machine shows electric caption on the display in a prefecture center in Kobe City.

The Coca Cola West, located in Fukuoka City, and Hyogo Prefecture made the agreement on August 3 to set up the vending machine that alerts the Deaf community on the disaster including the tsunami and the flood damage, a place of nearby shelter, etc., with caption on its display for the first time in the country.

The company is putting 60 vending machines with the alert system in total in the parks, government and municipal offices, and the hospitals, etc. in the prefecture.

They usually display information on the weather forecast and the news transmitted by the electric wave. The prefecture information center for the Deaf, which has sent the text message on emergency to the Deaf cellular phone users, sends the same message to the company when the disaster occurs to be displayed in the vending machine.

Prefecture officials said, "The new alert system for the Deaf would be more effective because they cannot hear the siren and the disaster emergency radio warning. We hope the system will be popular as much as possible".

Soft Bank Mobile supporting Deaf children's participation in events through captioning system

Soft Bank Mobile, one of the popular mobile phone companies in Japan, announced on August 3 that it would make its mobile service for the Deaf free until September 30.

The company supports the participation of Deaf/hard of hearing children in events during summer vacation with the system called the "Mobile type remote information system", which what the speaker says is summarized in caption on the display of iPhone.

An equipment needed for the system and iPhone 3G are loaned free of charge by the company. It also supports the system use fee and the operation to the third party that does work on captioning in the remote area.

Video conference system begins at city office in Chiba Prefecture

Mayor Yoshitaka Sakuma (left) talks in sign language with Tokita, president of the Ichihara Deaf Society, on computer through the video conference system.
(photo: http://www.chibanippo.co.jp/news/chiba/local_kiji.php?i=nesp1280281238)

Ichihara City Office in Chiba Prefecture started the operation of the video conference, with which sign language is used on the computer, on July 27 between the south branch office and the city office, first kind in the prefecture.

The Deaf had have to visit the city office where the interpreter is assigned for minor errands. The video conference system in the south branch office near their residences make it possible to do procedures.

According to the City Office, 544 Deaf persons reside in the main area of the city and about 100 persons live in the southern part in the city.

ļ¼­emorial service for atomic bomb victims who lost life in Hiroshima City

Hearing students mourn for the atomic bomb victims, offering paper cranes for peace.
(photo: http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/News/Tn201008020161.html)

The memorial service mourning for the atomic bomb victims in various places was conduced in Hiroshima Prefecture on Sunday, August 1 for the atomic bomb day.

In Hiroshima Prefecture Hiroshima South Special Support School in Naka Ward in Hiroshima City, 11 alumni members and friends participated in the memorial service for the Deaf atomic bomb victims. They all stood and prayed in silence in front of the monument to remember the Deaf atomic bomb victims.

Iwao Yosikami (76), who was exposed to radiation when he visited the city , recalled that after being exposed to radiation there was no work and he had a hard time.

Deaf high school student winning as one of 16 boys at national tennis match

Reinori Kajikita plays tennis with a hearing aid for men's singles at the national high school athletic event.
(photo: http://www.daily.co.jp/general/2010/08/03/0003271011.shtml)

The national high school athletic event has been held in Okinawa now. Reinori Kajikita (16), a Deaf freshman of Hiroshima Prefecture Setouchi High School, entered the list of the best 16 players for tennis men's singles on August 2, the sixth day of the event.

He says that though it was not possible to hear the sounds of a tennis ball bouncing in the court, he was not in tension, striking the ball firmly.

Reinori won a sweeping victory against the hearing second grader in the first round, and overwhelmed the hearing third grader again by the strong stroke in the second round.

He was given the racket for children at the age of four, and ever since loves to play tennis. He was ever the youngest player who acquired the silver medal at the Deaflympic Games held in Taiwan last summer. He won the championship in the Hiroshima Prefecture sports meet before participating in the national high school athletic event in Okinawa.

He has a dream to become a professional player.

Reinori has participated in the junior promotion training camp that a former top professional Shuzo Matsuoka sponsors. He clearly remembers Reinori. "He was striking a ball so hard that the racket would be flown. I felt an excellent sense in him".

Reinori lipread his coach and brushed up the skills. He still chases a ball in silence in the court.

Deaf high school student has dream to play soccer at Deaflympic Games in future

Shoma Miyata practices hard aiming at playing soccer at the Deaflympic Games some day.
(photo: http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/0003211001.shtml)

Shoma Miyata, a Deaf-born senior mainstreamed at Itam High School in Hyogo Prefecture, has practiced soccer with the hearing students for extracurricular activities, aiming to be on the National soccer team for the Deaflympic Games.

He was not able to understand the instruction during the game when he was a freshman and told the coach about the leave before summer vacation. He was persuaded by coach Shingo Yamamoto (50), who said "You will live a life to which you would run away from difficulties even if you enter into the workforce".

Shoma, who has played soccer since an elementary school, changed his mind about the leave and threw the sweat with hard practice without a single complaint. The teammates also supported him by the finger spelling and sign language.

Getting over the difficulties on playing with his hearing teammates, Shoma made debut to the official game which was the 3rd place final match at the Hyogo Prefecture High School Soccer Championship held on June 6.

Shoma was surprised about the championship because he never thought that he would play. However, he "played vigorously, thinking to get the point". The team won a sweeping victory though they did not make the high score.

Shoma said, "I am grateful for the people who have supported me. Hereafter, I will keep my ambition strong".

He has been selected as a candidate to the Japanese soccer team at the Deaflympic Games this March.

Deaf female motorcycle racer at Suzuka road race in Mie Prefecture

Naoko Takasugi (center), a participant of the Suzuka's 8-hour-long road race, discusses setting of motorcycle with her teammates.
(photo: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/atcars/ms/etc/20100727-OYT8T00660.htm)

Naoko Takasugi (33), a Deaf female motorcycle racer from Higashi-Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, participated in the "Endurance road race for 8 hours in Suzuka", held in the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture until July 25.

Naoko participated as the first racer of her team with the improved Ducati, a machine made in Italy. She has made debut from another team as the third racer in 2008 and lost the preliminary contest, but she successfully advanced to the final this year.

The condition on July 25 was severe; the intense heat of the summer sunlight, the road surface temperature to reached 65 degrees. One of her teammates fell down at the first stage, and the front of the machine was damaged seriously.

It had taken time to repair the machine, so the team did not reach 162 times round taken required for running the whole distance record. However, the team run round 130 times in eight hours, and Naoko was the last racer to finish. She explained when she got the checkered flag, "The team all worked hard to the last. I was deeply moved".

Naoko became deaf after the high fever hit her at the age of two. When she was 16 years old, she acquired the license to drive the bike, because she said, "I thought that was where I belonged as I was able to feel the wind".

Naoko had the accident that her bike collided against the four-wheeled vehicle in the intersection at the age of 18, and both her legs and the left arm were fractured. After this, she chose the circuit as a place where "there was no four-wheeled vehicle" so that she could drive, and began to work on the road to the racer.

She started to participate in the minibike race in 2000, and has been racing the All-Japan championship since 2006. She won a prize three times in the GP250 class in 2009, placed at the 11th during the year, too.

Attending the race, she is helped with an equipment that tells her of the timing of the gear change with the use of light.

Naoko has a dream to challenge the world championship some day. She will continue to race with her motorcycle even if she turns 40 or 50 years old.

Naoko Takasugi's website (English):