II. - 5. Access to Information and Communications and IT

Much hope is held for advances in information technology (IT) to bring about major changes in society, contribute to the economic prosperity of Japan, and enrich the lives of Japanese citizens.

However, a "digital divide" has arisen in regard to the use of IT due to age and physical condition. To bring about a barrier-free information environment that gives all citizens the benefits of IT innovations, an important challenge is promotion of the use of telecommunications by the elderly and physically challenged.

The government is promoting the development and diffusion of easy-to-use equipment and services, local centers where people can use IT, the expansion of broadcast programs for the elderly and persons with disabilities, and improved accessibility to the Internet and telecommunications equipment with the goal of creating a barrier-free information environment that makes it easy for everyone to use telecommunications, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

a. Promoting the Development and Diffusion of Easy-to-use Equipment and Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities

Since April 1997, partial subsidies have started to be granted to private companies engaged in research and development in communications and broadcast services for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

In April 2001, subsidies started to be granted to entities providing information and communications services to persons with disabilities and to those developing new types of services. Specific targets for these subsidies are: (i) telephone relay services for people with hearing impairments; and (ii) Internet Braille conversion services for people with visual impairments.

For persons with hearing impairments, a system to generate sign language animation from text started to be developed in 1997. And in 2001, a system to provide sign language animation information through personal digital assistance (PDA) started to be developed.

b. Setting up Regional Centers for the use of IT (Setting up Centers for IT Life Enrichment and Contact Support)

The government has been providing support since April 1998 to local public entities, etc. that are building centers to provide easy-to-use information and communication systems for the elderly and persons with disabilities in order to expand the employment opportunities for the elderly and persons with disabilities and enable them to become independent through utilizing such systems.

These centers will receive orders from public agencies, private companies, and related groups to create websites, digitize conference materials, and convert texts into Braille, for example, and carry out the work using telecommunications equipment designed for persons with disabilities, Braille printers, large keyboards, and so on.

c. The Expansion of Broadcasting Programs for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities

In order to provide equal access opportunities to information through broadcasting, the government amended the Broadcasting Law in 1997 and formulated and announced "diffusion targets for subtitled television programs" that aim to oblige broadcasters to produce subtitles by setting targets for subtitling of all programs that can be subtitled by the end of 2007.

To promote the diffusion of subtitled programming, the government provides the following types of support to expand broadcasts targeting the elderly and persons with disabilities.

To promote the diffusion of programming for aged person and persons with disabilities, subsidies are provided to produce programs with subtitles or descriptions, and research and development is being carried out with the goal of developing technologies to create systems able to automatically subtitle nearly all recorded programs in a short time, including the use of a voice recognition system.

d. Improved Accessibility to the Internet and Telecommunications Equipment

In 1995, a Guideline for Accessibility to Information Processing Equipment was formulated, covering the specifications of keyboard and easy-to-see contents and display, etc. (Guideline was revised in 2000.)

In 1998, Guidelines for Accessibility to Telecommunications Equipment and Equipment for Individual with Disabilities was formulated, explaining the functions required to facilitate the use of telecommunications services by the elderly and persons with disabilities. In specific guidance that was implemented based on the Guidelines, a symbol is now placed on products that are designed to be accessible.

The government is currently developing a system for reviewing and improving the accessibility of websites, in order that the elderly and persons with disabilities can easily access to websites and understand the content.

Index   -   Back   -   Next