Yoshiteru Mutoh M.D., Ph.D.
Executive Vice President of The University of Tokyo (title at that time)
Opening Center for Barrier Free Education
It was in 2006 that the first Barrier Free support committee was established by three professors from the departments of Physical Education, Health Education, and Clinical Psychology in the Graduate School of Education of the University of Tokyo. They started study groups to exchange information at the same time.
In 2008, we accepted a student with severe disability into a master's degree program and have encouraged improvements of campus facilities to support those students since then. The groundwork for the practice, study and development of the Barrier Free education has been laid successfully so far, in addition to Professor Satoshi Fukushima's excellent career of disability studies.
This center is expected to be the new academic base on Barrier Free studies, which is one of the main objectives of "Action plan 2007" of the University of Tokyo. It is supposed to contribute the educational part of the three main sectors of the Barrier Free studies; 1) Educational Department, 2) Study and Research Department, and 3) Support and Practice Department. We hope to set up a more comprehensive base in collaboration with other divisions of the University, including the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, which have worked for the Barrier Free studies concept for many years proactively in a forward-thinking way.
People promote the Barrier Free environments worldwide nowadays. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the United Nations in 2006. It is a strong social requirement to introduce the Barrier Free environments into social infrastructures including school campuses so that people with disabilities will never be ostracized in any sense.
In response to this, currently the University of Tokyo has set up the Barrie Free support division and made this concept one of the important objectives in the organizational operations of "Action plan 2007", those are, the environmental arrangement project to foster the diversity of members and the realization of the Barrier Free environment on campus.
The promotion and realization of Barrier Free concept is now an action across the University now. Various efforts have been made to systematize the Barrier Free concepts academically and to cultivate human resources who have deep understanding on the concept. The university recognize that the research and concept studies are the urgent issues domestically and internationally, which also should be one of the new slogans as the leading University of the times.
Many practices, research and studies regarding the Barrier Free concepts have been done academically, for example, in the fields of public welfare, technology, and architecture. Most of those have dealt with physical and mechanical issues. However, we need to expand our focus into other realms as well in the future. Such as information, culture, psychology, legal systems, education and so on. In addition, it is necessary to share the fruits of those studies for the common good, to realize more practical Barrier Free support systems and environments in society.
Today, the teachers license act of Japan requires students who want to be teachers of elementary and junior high schools to gain experience nursing care and how to assist those people with disabilities and the elderly. However, the educational curriculums to support these practices have not been systematized enough yet. We recognize that those are very urgent tasks academically and socially to develop good research and studies on the Barrier Free education which contributes a great role to the character formations of young students as good citizens in the 21st century.
Our mission is to develop and study educational curriculums in academic settings and from society in general. These curriculums are based on the philosophy of "Barrier Free", this means the environmental settings are accessible and usable by everyone in the community including people with disabilities. While cultivating programs of human resources with an international view point, for those who have deep understanding of the concepts of a Barrier Free education and who will work on it actively and professionally in the various areas of society, especially in the fields of education and educational administration.
We conduct various research activities to promote the Barrier Free education concept for both undergraduate and graduate students, especially those in teacher-training courses. We will make this center the main base to do educational and research and support, to realize a Barrier Free campus in the University.
We will provide educational information in an effort to strive to resolve the misconceptions and biases against people with disabilities and the Barrier Free concept. This arrives from the lack of experience and knowledge in society and school, so that any people can be provided equal opportunities for social involvement. It is the way school and society should be that they consist of a healthy diversity of people.
We hope to work in close collaboration with people not only from the field of education but also from a variety of academic and social fields and welcome any partnership and support for us to realize our objectives, in the "Barrier Free" way.