Celebrating Disability Employment Internationally
Part 1 of 2: Shinya Uehara
One of the most rewarding aspects of the work I do with the U.S. State Department is the opportunity it allows for me to, not only learn about disability employment on a global level, but to make impact on hiring practices. I have enjoyed getting to know so many wonderful people with disabilities around the world. As we continue to celebrate disability employment during the month of October, I thought you would be interested in getting to know a bit more about some of the people I met and more about disability employment internationally. This week I will be sharing interviews with Mr. Uehara and Mr. Yohena, two of the people with disabilities I met during my last trip to Japan.
Below is the translation of the first interview with Shinya Uehara. Mr. Uehara is an employee at “e-no”, an Okinawa-based company with a staff of 90 people. E-no originated in 1977 as an educational publishing house. As recognition of the health benefits bestowed by the Okinawan lifestyle has grown, the company has turned its expertise in shipping educational materials to one where customers from all over Japan can receive healthy food and natural cosmetics with Okinawan ingredients. E-no is committed to promoting healthy lifestyles and meaningful employment for all. I met Mr. Uehara and the team at e-no on my first full day in Okinawa through the program with the U.S. Embassy on the Economic Benefits of Employing People with Disabilities in Japan.
Interview with Mr. Shinya Uehara
What is your job at e-no?
I take care of other members who have disabilities. My job is to select the products for shipment, to prepare for mailing, and to put in the data for employees’ purchase.
I’ve been working (for 17 years), but when I first started I didn’t know what to do, But Tokie-san and Etsuko-san taught me many things. For example, I’d like to thank them for teaching me about transfer slips and shipment labels. In addition, I thank them for helping me to grow. I like my job in the distribution center and printing out the transfer slips. My job is rewarding and we all smile when we work and cooperate with each other. My dream is to have a family and build a house.
What would you like to tell Americans about Okinawa?
In Okinawa, when it’s hot, it’s hot. When it’s cold, it’s cold. But I am healthy and have a good life, so Okinawa is good. In Okinawa, the sunshine is very strong, so people get tired because of the summer heat. The good thing, and what I like about Okinawa, is the beautiful ocean…It feels wonderful. You can also go by ferry to the outer islands. I love the good food (of Okinawa). There’re a lot of stir-fried dishes, called “Champuru”, we have Goya champuru (bitter melon stir fry) and Fu champuru (gluten stir fry) and so on. There’re are many tourist spots and places to buy souvenirs. The most famous spots are Shuri Castle and International Street where there are lots of people; they are very popular. People in Okinawa are cheerful and energetic. People help each other a lot.
The thing I would like the people in U.S. to know is not that people with disability can’t do anything because of the disability. There are things that we can do. Eliminate the word “disability” and spend normal time with everybody.
What did you think about the visit to e-no by Joyce and Mary?
When Joyce and Mary visited our company, I was surprised to hear that there are people with disabilities in U.S. I was also surprised to learn about the study which compared two distribution centers. Joyce and Mary said people with disabilities were working there. But what kind of people with were working there? What kind of jobs do they have? I wanted to ask them more.
Joyce and Mary interviewed us, and it was good because they were easy to talk to. I didn’t understand some parts, but it was great to have an interpreter. I don’t have many chances to talk to Americans, so I was very happy to get this opportunity.
I’ve been to New York for a company trip. When I first visited New York, it was so cold, and my body was shaking, but I had my colleagues with me, so it was fun. We went to art exhibitions, and there were many photos and paintings, so it was good.
If I ever have a chance, I’d like to spend time at the place where Americans with disabilities are working. Because I’d like to know what kind of job they have in the U.S., and to know the difference from ours.
Please stop back later this week to read the interview with Mr. Tatsuya Yohena.
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