I make every effort to get to know my disabilities. It will eventually make a place for me.

Interviewer Yuki
Little Mie has motor dysfunction of limbs and speech disorders. She works as a CAD operator who designs jigs by making use of her computer skills. Because she can’t make sounds well with her tongue and lips, she often hear them back in conversations with people, and she has been struggling about communicate with colleagues at work.  Since she has been kept to making efforts to let people know about herself and her disabilities,  she  was able to leave her work than before.She has been made her life because she was not afraid of disabilities and communicate with people actively. I covered her steps and her feelings. (Interviewed on December 16, 2020)

-【Yuki】Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. First of all, could you tell me about your disability?

-【Little Mie】Yes, I have  motor dysfunction of limbs because of hypoxic encephalopathy, and speech disorder. Also, I have a little higher brain dysfunction, however, doctors say that it is not enough to make a diagnosis.

For my speech disorder, I can’t make sounds well with my tongue and lips, and it is a little difficult to listen to my words. Therefore people ask me so many times to repeat, and they imagine what I talk about. As the other person gets used to the conversation with me, we can communicate more smoothly.

In addition, I use a wheelchair only when I go out and work in my office. Because I work slower than other people and find it difficult to stand still without grasping anything. I move around in the house with my knees without a wheelchair.

Show off my strengths when looking for a job

-【Yuki】What kind of work do you do?

-【Little Mie】I work as a CAD operator for 3D CAD. I design jigs. My colleague asked me  “Can you model it?” or “Can you find out what is different from the past?”. Sometimes I draw a diagram from the model.

I work 5 days a week and 8 hours in a day. We have flextime at my job, so I can finish up early, but sometimes I do overtime for a few hours.

-That’s nice to have a flextime system.

-I agree. I use the system when I finish work early or I have to go to the government office.

– How did you find your job?

-I went to a company briefing for people with disabilities and looked for a job. My disorders are severe and I knew that some companies prefer not to choose me as a member of their job because of my speech disorder. So I tried to talk with the company’s staff and I handed my document over to you personally.  

-You have a lot of energy! How many companies did you apply for?

– I submitted my resume to 3 design companies and 6 clerk Jobs. Therefore, I made  a portfolio of my designs and handed it there because I worked as a designer in my last job. It cost a lot of money to make it, but I made a good impression on the companies.At first, I applied for my company as a clerical worker. But the staff there suggested that I work as a CAD operator.  For that reason,I received training for the first year.

-Why did you start this job?

It was hard to find a job when I graduated from university. In addition to severe physical disabilities, I have speech disorders, so the information made me look  more severe to work. It was really difficult for me to pass the selection for clerical work. Therefore, my parents wanted me to learn access and VBA at a school which provides job training forthe people with disabilities to help them find employment. However, most of the units that can be learned there are paperwork, and I have already learned the skills in high school. I wanted to learn other skills of using computers. Since my sister was studying commercial design, she told me that I could teach Adobe software, so I decided to go to the design school. 

I’ve always been using a computer since I was a kid, so I already could operate the software. At first, I started to play educational software for children, and when I was an elementary school student, I made a simple homepage! So at the training school, I learned how to design, and then started working as a designer and DTP operator.

Conditions for finding a job. How to explain my disabilities for get a job.

-【Yuki】Do you have conditions you can’t change to find a job?

-【Little Mie】Yes, I have 2 conditions.  At first, getting a salary that I can live by myself is very important for me. Because I didn’t want to be economically dependent on my parents andI wasn’t satisfied with the salary of my previouscompany, so I wanted to get more salary than before. I get a pension for people with disabilities, but I will use it when I can’t work.

Second, I wanted to work in the local city. Because, my previous company was in Tokyo, and it took a lot of time to go to work. I was tired of driving every morning for an hour and a half in a traffic jam. However, if I live in Tokyo, the cost of living and rent are high, so I couldn’t live while maintaining a car with only salary and pension. Since my parents were not so financially stable,  I didn’t  have choice torely on them.Moreover I was confident that I could live in the local city if I have a car even though it is inconvenient. So it wasn’t a problem to get a job any local city would do so long as it’s not snowing.

-How did you explain your disability when you applied for the company?

I don’t need a handrail in the toilet and I can walk along a wall in a small space such as home. Also, I need a wheelchair in the company, but I can go up the stairs with handrails slowly. I explained concretely about my disabilities and what I wanted  help  so that the other person could imagine it easily.

Regarding speech disorders, when I took an interview, I asked the interviewer, “Do you understand my words?”, “May I transcribe them?” However I had never transcribed it in an interview, but I tried to make sure whether I could communicate with them properly.

Regarding higher brain dysfunction, I didn’t explain about it because my physician said, “If you are not diagnosed with it, you don’t have to say it.” However, instead of writing on my resume about higher brain dysfunction, I made a sheet that wrote down the details of my disabilities, what I was struggling with and how to deal with it. Finally I printed it and submitted it to the staff of the company.

That’s a good idea!

Thank you. I think it’s important to know my disability and be able to control it. In addition, I disclosed my disorders so that I wouldn’t cheat at rock-paper-scissors. I often hear that if people with disabilities work without announcing their difficulties, they worked much harder and their condition got worse. So I thought it would be better to have a sheet that explains my disabilities properly.

I summarize what I can’t do due to my disabilities, what I can do even if I have a disability, and what help I needed. For example, in my case, I thought that serving customers by phone would be hard for me because of my speech disorder, so I mentioned that I would like you to consider it. Sometimes if person with disabilities say “I can do anything!”, they have to work as same as other person without any help. So I wrote that I couldn’t do it what I could do if I worked hard. I may have written everything that could hinder my work.

-It seems to be convenient, not only for job hunting but also when applying for a part-time job!

If I pave the way for people with disability, there will be a livable society for all.

-【Yuki】Is your company universal design?

-【Little Mie】In terms of building, some areas that have already been rebuilt are barrier-free. It may not be completely barrier-free, but there are some parts of the buildings that cannot be rebuilt for universal design because of depreciation. It will take much time, but I think it will be gradually improved to a better one.

The university I attended when I was a student was not barrier-free at the beginning, and gradually that was renovated while I was in school, so it is not a pain for me if there are not universal design. I think that if I make the road, other people will be more easily to go to school.

The first disabled person who went to a school or company is important to changes for there. For what I knew, my high school renovated their building because of a senior student who uses a wheelchair before I entered there. Thanks to it, I studied there for 3 years.

When I was in my fourth year at University, my University was rebuilt completely. After that, some students with disabilities enter the school every year. I’m so glad! It may be painful for the first person, but if they think that their action might make other people happy, they might feel that the experience will be rewarded.

Regarding how colleagues think about my disabilities, it has not been understood, so I think we need to make an effort to know about my disorders. First of all, I let them know about myself and my disabilities through my work. To make the atmosphere better, I steadily distribute sweets to my colleagues.

-Since giving sweets to them, you have a chance to talk with them, right? It’s good opportunity to make them know your disabilities through that time.

-I don’t know yet, but I know my colleagues understand it rather than before. I think that spread awareness little by little, for example there are people with disabilities like me and I can’t speak, but can communicate by writing down my thoughts.

The purpose of distributing sweets is to make some colleagues who keep their distance from me have good impression to people with disabilities. Because there are some coworkers who do not know how to communicate with disabled. In our work, we have to communicate with the person in charge of design by ourselves, so it is easier to proceed smoothly if we get along with the person in charge who often works together. People tend to have the impression that it is difficult to get involved or talk just because I have a speech disorder, so I hope it will be an opportunity for them to communicate.In fact, some people have become my friends because of the sweets, and recently, those people rely on me and give me a lot of work more than before.

However, I feel that many people still have misunderstandings about disabilities. For example, they think it take much time to understand and difficult to communicate to people with speech disorders. Because of my severe upper limb disorders, they think that I can’t work smoothly.

Many people with higher brain dysfunction who do not have disabilities in their limbs, and if the symptoms are not severe, there are many cases that it’s enough to consider going to the hospital, so I think that employment for those disability is progressing. But I hear that those people were depressed have brain fatigue when they were tired, so it is necessary to take steps in order not to be depressed.

Retain my balances of making any achievements at work and managing physical condition

-【Yuki】You have not been diagnosed with higher brain dysfunction. Have you ever been alerted by your doctor about the possibility of brain fatigue?

-【Little Mie】My doctor told me to not over work because it will make me tired. I also explained to my boss about it and he understands that. In the past, I’ve worked overtime every day and I’m exhausted, so I’m determined not to do it anymore. Now I don’t work overtime when I’m tired, and I try to overtime within 5 hours a week. After that, I drink Chinese medicine and try not carry over tiredness to the next day! I feel that stomach fatigue is affecting my brain due to late dinner, so I also use the flextime system so that I go to my work a little later or when I can go home early. Also, I am very tired before my period, so I try to be careful about how to proceed with work and take breaks during that period.

On the other hand, I want to get good results at work, and I don’t want to be a completely useless person, so I’m trying hard to avoid that! I am glad that the company has properly evaluated the results.

– When do you find it fun to work?

Not fun but happy for me when I work. This is because I can give back in the form of tax payment to the locals who have helped me so far. When I was a kid, I was helped by a small local general hospital, like I got treatment of brain hypothermia therapy, ICU entry and rehabilitation and so on. My hometown used to spend a lot of taxes for me at that time, so I’m very happy to be able to pay taxes now for the future of the people who supported me at that time. Now it’s my turn to pay back.

-It’s very important and a nice way of thinking! I want to remember the feeling of giving back to the people and places which have helped me so far.

Some ideas for my work easier. A new way of working since corona virus

-【Yuki】Do you have any ideas for your work easier?

-【Little Mie】Nowadays, all meetings are online because of the Corona virus, and when I talk over to the computer, my voice becomes unclear and sometimes it’s difficult to convey what I say. So, in that case  I explain while showing my face on the video, I use the notepad on my computer and use the magnifying glass tool to zoom in what I’m pointing to, and also, I use a chat system when I want to give my opinion. Sometimes I feel sad because colleagues don’t care about my chat while sharing the screen, but I’m relieved that there is one person who knows my disabilities and cares about me. Talking over the computer takes twice as long as talking and explaining, but I work in some ways that is easier to convey while using the functions of the computer.

I think it is quite important for people with communication disabilities such as speech disorders to make themselves known to colleagues. I hope to be more  understood, but I think there are many chances that want to speak you mind more even if you don’t have disabilities.

-I agree with you. Even though Japan has culture that everyone guess the message what other are not saying, no matter how close you are, you don’t know 100% of the other person’s thoughts. I think it is important to convey it in words to prevent misunderstandings.Compared to before coronavirus, can you change your working style?

-Situations where I work online has increased, it has become easier for me to explain my ideas, because I can talk by using some tools such as chat and screen sharing.

However, I feel that it has become difficult to receive information. Sometimes I can’t communicate well by email or chat. Because people often use the words “this” and “it” in conversations, but I can’t understand what those words show because of my disabilities if people use them a lot by email or chat. So it makes me a little sad when I have to talk to those people. Some of them think that people with disorders can’t understand, and they think that people with disabilitis are ignorant people. So I want them to know about the words “this” and “it” in conversations are difficult to understand for some people and Japanese have to explain what they think clearly. 

-Since a coronavirus, I felt that it was easier to work for everyone, but there are also issues. A company has announced that one of the skills needed for coronavirus is “the ability to verbalize one’s thoughts to the other person.” I think it is important that everyone can get the information equally, so I hope we can improve those things.

My free time

-【Yuki】How do you spend your free time?

-【Little Mie】Now I often watch TV recordings, read manga and novels, and take pictures because of coronavirus. I also go to shrines and other places near to my home and collect their red ink stamps in my stamp book.Before the coronavirus, I used to go out a lot. I often went to meet my friends and went to the areas far from my home in search of sake! I often went to other prefectures to meet friends I met at sake events!

-Do you have any goals in the future?

I would like to travel!  It’s difficult now, but I want to go to Hokkaido and Hawaii with my parents! And I want to buy my home that I can live until I die! My parents’ house is not barrier-free, and the station and hospital are far away from there. I want a house about 500m away from the bus stop!

-【Yuki】After the interview

I think it is very courageous for people with disabilities to let people know about their disabilities. They often worry about whether people dislike them. However, if they can confide your disabilities and people understand you little by little, they may have a chance to live better and to show your abilities more. From this interview, I got a courage to take a step toward a future! Thank you very much.

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