Chapter 38: Persons with Disabilities and the Great East Japan Earthquake

In Lena Dominelli (Ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Green Social Work, April 10, 2018.

Shigeo Tatsuki with Gilbert White
This chapter aims to provide empirical accounts on the social roots of disaster risks among persons with disabilities (PWD) after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE), to provide theoretical accounts of their difficulties, constraints and limitations from a social model of disabilities, and to provide an action framework in order to deal with their root causes. First, multiple independent surveys reported that PWD died at a rate almost two times higher than general population. The author, however, argues that the mortality rate gap was observed only in Miyagi, one out of the three heavily impacted regions in North Eastern Japan. The root causes of Miyagi PWD social vulnerability was attributed to decades long normalization practices in tsunami prone areas. Second, the GEJE surviving PWD also experienced life functioning difficulties, which were mainly caused by sudden changes in environment with disruptions of the life-line and other essential services. Third, based on these empirical accounts, a three-layer action framework was proposed for disability inclusive disaster risk reduction (DiDRR). The first layer, which envisions that PWD shall be included, emphasizes the augmentation of reasonable accommodations in order to meet life functioning needs that arise during disasters. The second layer, which requests that everyone shall include PWD, stresses strength building. Disability Equality Training is exemplified as a model of awareness-raising among local residents. Pre-disaster case management planning is described as a way to not only match functioning needs with community help but to also empower PWD through raising their DRR literacy. The third layer, which demands that social institutions shall include PWD, aims at statutory responses. Examples of such actions include the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction for 2015 to 2030, and enactments of national laws/local by-laws on the advancement of DiDRR.

Great East Japan Earthquake, social model of disability, Disability inclusive disaster risk reduction, reasonable accommodation, strength building, social and statutory actions