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Maximizing well-being for all Creating a society in which people with various disabilities can work naturally NTT Claruty Natsu Ogawa.

The NTT Group is embracing the Self as We concept with the view to creating a sustainable society. The Self here refers to those around you as well, not just you as an individual. And this does not only refer to humans--nature and culture are also viewed as part of the Self. Social issues that cannot be solved from an

Meeting the futuristic OriHime-D

Customers arriving at the reception desk of our holding company at Otemachi First Square building are greeted by the OriHime-D humanoid robot. The robot is not an AI--OriHime-D is controlled by a person in real time. One of the pilots is NTT Claruty's Natsu Ogawa.

"Our job as pilots is to remotely control the robot from home to guide visitors from the reception desk to conference rooms and reception rooms, and to provide them with a pleasant time by having a conversation if they are interested." (comment from Natsu Ogawa also follows below)
Ms. Ogawa used to be a midwife, but due to an illness it became difficult for her to continue working. At first, the name of the disease was unclear even after testing, and despite her illness there were times when she was told "it's all in your head," and she says she came to feel that there was no one who would understand her situation. It was during such difficult times that she was introduced to the OriHime-D pilot job by an employment agency.
"Since falling ill, I became worried about my future and was gathering information on social media and elsewhere. It was at this time when I found that OriHime was a hot topic among people with incurable diseases. I was interested, but I thought that OriHime pilot jobs were for a 'chosen few' who are incredible conversationalists or have other special skills, so I was overwhelmed with joy when I was hired. I was happy to be involved in OriHime, and also happy to be able to work again."

Sustainability through person-to-person and person-to-technology connections

At the NTT Group, OriHime enables new working styles for people who cannot leave home easily due to illnesses or disabilities, and by working together we aim to realize a society in which people with disabilities are treated normally without specific emphasis on their disability.

"Ory Yoshifuji, the developer of OriHime, focused on 'eliminating loneliness' as a development theme. I myself had felt strong feelings of loneliness as I gave up on doing various things and stayed at home most of the time. However, this job let me discover that I am able to work in my own way given the right environment and means, and my loneliness dissipated as I connected with society and was able to be myself."

Part of NTT Claruty's vision is to promote normalization by disseminating to society new jobs and working environments that utilize information communications technology. New technologies are highly important and useful for achieving sustainability. On this point, however, Ms. Ogawa emphasizes the importance of having people operate these technologies.
"Recently, many roles are also filled by AI robots, but I believe it is important to cherish the warmth of robots controlled by humans, as they can speak more kindly and provide a range of hospitality each time a customer visits."

The following story reflects Ms. Ogawa's feelings on the topic. Not long after Ms. Ogawa joined the company, she told a customer "It's been cold recently, so please take care of yourself." The customer smiled and said, "You too, Ms. Ogawa." This customer saw not a robot, but Ms. Ogawa who was on the other side. She says she was deeply moved that the customer recognized and accepted her as a person.
For Ms. Ogawa, who was cut off from society due to her illness, her job is a way of reconnecting. Furthermore, communicating with customers who visit the company lets her feel closely connected with others.

Barriers surrounding people with disabilities

There are still issues that must be solved in order to create a society in which people with disabilities can play an active role. Homes, for example. While there are some rental properties available that advertise themselves as "barrier free," in actuality many of these are merely apartments with no steps inside, and may have steps at the entrance of the building with no wheelchair slopes installed. In many cases this fact is discovered after going through the difficulty of viewing the property, presenting a hurdle to simply finding a place to live, which is one of the steps for participating in working society. Ms. Ogawa also says that there are issues with people's awareness and knowledge.

"Many people lump 'people with disabilities' into one group. However, the reality is that the diseases and accidents stemming from disabilities, as well as their symptoms, severity, and progression, vary broadly. For this reason, the things people with disabilities can or cannot do are completely different for each person. Rather than treating them as 'people with disabilities,' I hope others will see us for our individual strengths and disadvantages."
By accurately assessing the skills of each and every person with disabilities, they will be able to play even more active roles than they do today. For example, among people who are ill or have disabilities and have difficulty leaving home, there are those who specialize in one field and possess the same level of knowledge as researchers. By using OriHime, Ms. Ogawa says that these people could work as guides at specialist facilities or establishments. Conversely, there are also behaviors that narrow the possibilities for people with disabilities.
"While it is a very difficult topic, there are times when people do something for a person with a disability out of compassion, leaving that person with complicated feelings... While we are grateful that someone would want to help us, when they say something like 'I thought you wouldn't be able to do this, so I did it for you,' it's difficult to tell that person that we could have done that thing if we had tried hard. This can lead to feelings that we are unable to do anything. Therefore, it's most helpful when people confirm with the person and watch to see how they are doing instead of helping them suddenly without asking."
Even if it is with good intentions, such actions may narrow the possibilities of people with disabilities as well as their breadth of activities. Ms. Ogawa says there are many things that she realized when she herself came to have a disability. Having the right knowledge and understanding of each individual can create a basis of accepting various ways of thinking different from one's own. This is crucial for realizing a sustainable society.

Communicating to change relationships with people around us and society

The "Self as We" concept considers not only "Self," but those other than ourselves ("We") as a part of ourselves, showing the overarching connections and relationships between these elements. One obstacle to this is the barriers between "Self" and others, and the various challenges that prevent people with disabilities from participating in society represent one of these barriers.
"I think the phrase 'eliminating loneliness' promulgated by Ory Yoshifuji is also applicable to the 'Self as We' concept. We can eliminate loneliness by ensuring that we do not create circumstances in which people have difficulty leaving their homes for a variety of reasons and have to give up on something. In order to do this, it is key for the parties involved to communicate what they can and cannot do, challenges they would like to take on, and their concerns. And, I feel that it is necessary to eliminate barriers by taking a courageous step forward to participate in society."
There may be objections, hesitations, or concerns associated with communicating. However, as an OriHime-D pilot, Ms. Ogawa says she wants to set a personal example and demonstrate how she is using her own power to participate in society, even with her disability. Also, regarding what people with disabilities can do in their daily lives to practice "Self as We," she says...
"While it's not something I like to do, I believe that it's also important to rely on other people at times. By relying on others, you can convey the pain and difficulties that you face. The people around you are surprisingly prepared to help whenever you call for them. It's important for us to use courage to talk to them, so that they are not merely waiting for us to ask."