The role of social workers

The real estate agents discriminated against us, but on the other hand I also think the people of this world are truly kind. I felt that way at the shelter.

Some people were like, “What do you mean, disabled?” because they just didn’t know, and so when our staff stepped in and explained it to them, they were just like “Oh okay,” and naturally accepted it. I think one of our roles is to be like coordinators who connect with people who aren’t yet aware of disabled people and their conditions.

I experienced that living at the shelter. I asked our trainees if it was okay to tell people about their disabilities just in case they needed help, and after obtaining their consent, I told the abled people in the shelter.

Once when one of our trainees was taking his medicine, someone asked us, “Is that guy feeling sick?” It seemed they were just curious. When we answered, “He’s taking his medicine from his psychiatrist,” the person was like, “It doesn’t seem that way. I couldn’t tell.”

When we step in and explain like that, they feel at ease and want to learn more about disabled people. Then they even help watch over them. That’s really nice. It’s mutual understanding. It’s important for people to know.

Dedicated effort

When you saw the staff managing the shelter, did you feel like you had to do something?

Ogawa: Umm…

Kayoko: I don’t think they even had time to think about it. We (the staff) were responsible for some severely disabled people, so we had to protect them first. We didn’t know if our own families were okay, and we didn’t know what had happened to the families of our physically handicapped users or our users in wheelchairs, either. And so Ms. Ogawa and others who would jump into action with one or two words from us helped us out. The ones who took action right away listened to us attentively.

The situation was so urgent that it was like, they had to do it for everyone else. We also had severely handicapped people to think about, so I think their thought process was that they didn’t want to be any trouble. She (Ms. Ogawa) also had parents and siblings in the region, and I’m sure she was worried. But she never said anything about that, and just kept working hard without even making a face.