Supporting Group - Special Prize (Japan)
“First Job in WITH”
Shizuoka Prefecture Director of the NPO
Chiaki Shiba (65; male)
We have two small workplaces called “WITH” mostly for sightless people in the suburb and in the city of Hamamatsu. Both facilities of WITH have about 50 workers in total, including people who lost their sight in adulthood, sightless people who are also intellectually-handicapped and elderly people.
“WITH” means “together” in English. All the people including handicapped people can work together and spend a happy time. We have practiced rehabilitation for visual impairments so that they have confidence in their lives, by walking without relying on the eyesight and practicing to manage various things in everyday life. They practice rehabilitation for visual impairments through work and jobs.
In WITH, they work first. Our workplaces are provided mostly for sightless people, so as work items, the work for creating a white cane and printing of Braille related to visual impairments. In WITH, there is a happy episode in printing of Braille.
WITH was started with seven sightless people and four staff members in April, 1996. Seven users include two people capable of reading and writing Braille, two late sightless people and one severe multiple handicapped person. We had to make a good start. The mayor of Hamamatsu, grand people in the field of visually impaired welfare in the opening ceremony of the facility, further, media representatives joined. Because a small private house was provided for our facility, it was a memorable home-prepared opening ceremony having about 300 guests in a local community hall. After the ceremony is finished, we moved to WITH together with long-distance guests and supporters of WITH to have a networking event. Moreover, reporters from a TV station and a newspaper company in order to have interviews, but seemed to be surprised with our old small private house.
One of reporters interviewed me, “What are your plans for the future?”
“Hello to all the reporters! You must have many name cards because of your job. In this regard, you are the first our customers. Because one name card comes to 10 yen, please let us have 100 yen for 10 name cards from each of you. We'll later send you the name cards when prepared!" Reporters from 6 to 7 companies got roped in, and we got new customers.
And then, we started to work from next day. First, a person who can write in Braille writes an example by a small-sized Braille device for six lines. A concave plate of the Braille device is provided with a guide made of a cloth packing tape so that the size of a name card fits without moving. To the guide, late sightless people who want to learn Braille set by themselves a Braille sheet cut into the size of a name card, and read Braille of the example held by the left hand to write Braille in reverse characters by the right hand.
They practiced so many times until having no mistakes. After they can write Braille up to an acceptable level, they finally can write Braille in real name cards. For each name card, Braille writing has to be done very carefully. Any mistakes cannot be afforded as a job. Because of feeling tension, reached sales of 10 yen for one finished card. 100 yen for 10 cards. They earned a little money but 100 yen by themselves for the first time. In addition, they can learn Braille.
Then, a TV camera operator handed over the name card of sweat and tears to a prefectural governor in an interview. The governor said, "What the convex is?"From this opportunity, the name card became popular among prefectural government officers, and the system is established that an existing customer brings new customer.
Half a year later, we have received so many orders and finally reached capacity of handcrafted name cards. We purchased a roller for Braille printing with the help of a grand, and technically shifted to present printing of name cards with a zinc plate. Our two facilities have now two rollers being continuously used for printing tirelessly.
People often say, “Because I cannot read Braille,” “Because I don't have any opportunities to meet sightless people,” do not need Braille in a name card. We always say, “It is difficult to read Braille with the finger, but you don't have to read it. A person requiring Braille read.” “You use such a Braille name card, so that many people have opportunities to know that there are delicate characters read with the finger in the world, and the such characters allow a sightless person to read a book alone, write a letter and absorb education and culture.”
My name card shows three languages written in Japanese on the front side, in English on the back side, and in Braille, returning to the front side again. I'm proud of it. Furthermore, I cannot read Braille, but I can print Braille. A job for gaining an income. And a job for publicizing the presence of Braille. Additionally, a job in which we can seriously learn how to read Braille by touch. Braille printing in WITH is a very important job.
Fortunately, after 20 years from the opening, most orders are now placed by general companies. Thankfully, they bring new customers.
In WITH, we started to work for handcrafted name cards, but now expand our work like a Braille phonebook, public relations magazines of the city, and flower cards.Our job for Braille printing is continuing to evolve by “writing” our pride.