Organized Panel Session
Despite successive laws tackling the issue of employment, considered as key to disabled people’s empowerment and autonomy, the employment rate of people with disabilities remains significantly lower than that of non-disabled people. Moreover, disabled people have traditionally been restricted to specific (and often low-income) jobs, like massage-acupuncture for the blind or cleaning jobs for people with mental disabilities.
Since the 2000s, the Japanese State has made renewed efforts to support disabled people’s access to employment by creating incentives for employers and by developing disabled workers’ qualifications through enhanced vocational training.
How and to what extent does the vocational training system contribute to improving disabled people’s access to employment?
This paper presents initial results of fieldwork conducted in Japan in May 2018, following on from doctoral research on special education for disabled children. After presenting the history of rehabilitation and vocational training for disabled people in Japan, it analyzes the recent evolution of the vocational training system in special schools and life-long education centers, based on class observations and interviews. It shows that the willingness to give disabled people access to white collar jobs in various sectors has become a guiding principle in the organization of training programs. Yet, two difficulties arise. First, after graduating from training programs, many disabled workers still face hurdles in their access to stable employment. Second, barriers to access training remain. In both cases, gender appears as a significant factor impacting workers’ situations.