ASEAN-Japan Summit for University Students with Disabilities

Tokyo, Japan

I am delighted to be participating at this ASEAN-Japan Summit for University Students with Disabilities, today.

I would like to extend my welcome to the more than 50 The Nippon Foundation fellows and alumni, and researchers from ASEAN countries, and students and researchers from Japan. I certainly believe that this is an invaluable occasion. All of you, the next generation young leaders have assembled together to discuss the theme of this Summit “To Overcome Disabilities through Technology.”

Among the people I work with, there are many leaders, with or without disabilities, who are proactively involved in society. I would like to mention a few leaders with disabilities who are demonstrating political leadership in different parts of the world; a wheelchair user, the President of Ecuador, a deaf Member of the European Parliament, a blind Thai upper house member. There are also leaders in the business world such as a Japanese businessman, a wheelchair user, a Canadian investment consultant with cerebral palsy. I believe that you will be their reflection in the very near future.

I would like to see more and more of such people in the society and it will be nothing special to everyone. This is the inclusive society that The Nippon Foundation is aiming at.

We have for more than 50 years given precedence towards capacity building of persons with disabilities such as individuals who are deaf, blind and with low vision, or with reduced mobility, in the ASEAN region.

What we want to achieve through our support programs is the realization of social participation of as many persons with disabilities as possible.

For that, in our support for the Deaf persons we have focused on promoting bilingual deaf education and sign linguistics.

While for the support of the blind and persons with low vision we have built a network to expand opportunities of education and employment across different countries in the region.

In order to support persons with reduced mobility, we have trained prosthetic engineers for about 30 years.

In our long years of supporting the capacity building of persons with disabilities, we have come to realize the potential that technology has to change their lives.

For example, our support in the ASEAN region for local language software for braille translation and text to speech has immensely expanded education opportunities for the blind. And with rapid advance of technology today, we are actually seeing even greater opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate in society.

However, it is my belief that we need your leadership to take further advantage of this potential. I say this because there is a need to create new ways of using technology sustainably and effectively and reflect it in policies that can bring change to the status quo. This is the role that you are all expected to play as leaders.

For that we have nurtured leaders in promoting activities of persons with disabilities in each country. To date we have 37 fellows and alumni from 7 countries under our program. Of course all of you gathered for this Summit are included in the number.

Courageous leaders who can think with interdisciplinary approach and act with enthusiasm. I am here today to ask each one of you to be one such leader.

During the next two days I expect that new innovative and creative projects will be proposed towards the realization of an inclusive society through the cooperation and collaboration among the participants from the ASEAN region and Japan. It is my sincere wish that you will utilize whatever findings from this summit in the best possible way to benefit your own countries. The Nippon Foundation is always by your side and our thoughts are always with you.

In closing I would like to express my sincere gratitude to AUN-DPP Network, University of Malaya, University of Tokyo, Microsoft Japan, and last but not least all the young leaders present here today.

Thank you very much.