In Japan, opportunities for those with physical limitations, such as blindness, are severely limited. Many occupations that are open to such people in many western societies are prohibited to them by unbending rules in Japan.
Recently, one young man with a degenerative retina disease described to me his dream of becoming a licensed psychiatrist who could apply the best of both western and eastern medicine to the specific needs of his patients. In Japan, however, as psychiatry is a branch of regular medical schools, he would have to become an M.D., the same as a surgeon or internist, but he is prohibited by law from even entering medical school. This is in spite of the fact that his specific handicap would not be a particular problem in the area of medicine he wishes to pursue.
In countries such as the U.S. and Australia, there are a few examples of legally blind persons becoming certain kinds of doctors, including psychiatrists. While certainly not an easy path to take (even for those with no disabilities), the way is not blocked to those who can do the job. Clearly, such specialties as surgery are not an option for those with poor or no vision, but many other areas should be and are open to them.
Thus, this young man sees as his only option studying abroad in a country that is open to him. His dream is to become licensed, prove himself in another country and then to come back to be a catalyst for change here in Japan. To do that, however, he needs to spend a considerable amount of time becoming proficient in English. He works as an acupuncturist (one of the few occupations open to the blind), but can take some time off at certain times during the week. He would like to find someone who could work with him on his English. If you are interested (perhaps even for an exchange of English lessons for Japanese lessons), give me a call at 55-1907 and I'll put you in touch with him.
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