First anniversary of Tottori Sign Language Ordinance enforced: Social changes by sign language spread

October 12, 2014

It has been one year on October 11 since the Tottori Prefecture in western Japan enforced the first "sign language ordinance" in the whole country which aims at the society that sign language can be used as language.

An opportunity to be familiar with sign language in a school or an office in the prefecture increases, and attempts, such as video remote interpreting service by the Internet, are also progressing.

The similar ordinance was enforced at least five cities and towns in other prefectures, including Hokkaido, Mie, and Saga, this year.

■ Tottori model
Governor Hirai, who has had experienced in interpreting during the college days, tackled positively working on the sign language ordinance. Various enterprises have so far been advanced with the budget of about 140 million yen.

With a video remote interpreting service, the tablet computer connected to the Internet was installed in nine places where public spaces, such as the prefectural office and Tottori railroad station. There were 30 Deaf persons who used the service, the highest number in a month.

About 140,000 copies of the "sign language handbook" (A5-size and 68 pages) of an introductory and fundamental levels to learn practical conversations were published and were supplied widely to the children and students, and staffs of primary schools and junior and senior high schools. The personnel of the welfare division in the Prefectural Office also offered the delivery lecture at a company, etc. The number of applicants for the sign language certificate examination was 130 or more, twice compared with last year.

The first national sign language performance contest for the high school  students will be held in Tottori-shi on November 23, in which 41 teams from 21 prefectures across Japan will participate.

■Five cities and towns throughout Japan
The similar ordinance has been enforced in Ishikari-shi (April 1) in Hokkaido, Shintoku-cho (Hokkaido), Shikaoi-cho (Hokkaido)(October 1), Matsusaka-shi (Mie Prefecture) (April 1), and Ureshino-shi (Saga Prefecture) (July 1).

3.2% of a population of 6,457 is Deaf or hard of hearing (as of March, 2013) in Shintoku-cho in Hokkaido, northern Japan, which has four institutions, such as vocational training facilities for exclusive use, and a nursing home for the aged, etc.

The spread of sign language is progressing on the private sector level from the 1970s, and the town also began the sign language lecture etc. this year. The person in charge of the Health Welfare Division says, "Our goal is that all townsmen can talk by sign language."

The persons concerned in Ureshino-shi, the first in Kyushu, southern Japan, says that after the enforcement of sign language ordinance there have been a lot of inquiries from neighboring self-governing bodies.

The shortage of interpreters is one of the issues currently in Tottori Prefecture. According to the Prefectural Association of the Deaf, there are
41 certified interpreters and 72 interpreting volunteers against about 600 Deaf in the prefecture as of October 1. 

The request for interpreting, such as for a lecture meeting, rapidly increases; 910 cases in 2013 from 522 cases in 2012. An interpreter may have to work for two or more events concurrently.

Also more interpreters with the knowledge of special contents, such as a medical or science field, are called for. However, presently it takes at least four or five years before working as a certified interpreter.

Japanese source:

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