Interview with Rie Yasuyara, Past Scholar – Visually Impaired to Study Abroad

1. Tell me about yourself…

My name is Rie Yasuhara. I am a full time employee in the HR department of a foreign pharmaceutical company. I enjoy traveling, hiking, playing flute, reading and eating.

2. What is your relationship with CWAJ? Both your current position and any previous involvement?

I received a scholarship for visually impaired students in 2007 and joined CWAJ in 2009, right after graduating from university. For several years I served as a proofreader for the VVI newsletter, and became the newsletter editor in Jan 2020. The VVI newsletter is provided to visually impaired people who participate in VVI activities. As editor, I plan to introduce CWAJ activities (besides VVI) in the newsletter.

3. What motivated you to apply for a CWAJ scholarship, and how did your goals change (if they did) once you received the scholarship? (she didn’t answer the question, but it’s a great story)

I was very grateful for the help provided by the CWAJ human network. In my senior year at university, I spent six weeks in Boston for an internship A CWAJ member connected me with a former SVI student who was living in Boston at the time. They helped me with find accommodations, and arranged a mobility orientation plan with a specialist (a lesson for a blind person to learn how to walk alone in Boston, including how to take trains and buses (the system is very different from Japan)). Her help, and the connection that the CWAJ network provided me, greatly increased the quality of my time in Boston. I was so grateful for what I was given, that I decided to join CWAJ to contribute back to the association.

4. How has technology changed over time, to give you more opportunities?

In my studies and with my work I rely very much on computers. I use a computer just like the one sighted people use; but I install a screen reader, a software which reads out displayed information on a screen. One of big change in recent years is the development of Apps. There are many Apps that assist visually impaired people. For example, an app to assist with navigating on streets, (it provides oral guidance using GPS); and an app to know what is on a printed paper (OCR recognizes the letters and the screen reader reads them out). Although they do not yet provide a perfect solution, such tools change our life. As technology progresses rapidly, there is a challenge for some of us who are less comfortable with IT, to keep up with the changes and update our knowledge.

5. What is something unexpected that you would like us to know about visually impaired people?

(Maybe, it is not unexpected, but something people sometime forget easily.)
Each visually impaired person has different needs, difficulties, and preferences. Some people think all visually impaired use Braille, but not necessarily. People with low vision use large print and the preferred size of the letters depends on each person. Some people have no problem running downstairs alone, but others may be afraid. This depend on how long a person has been visually impaired, past experiences, their life situation and personality. I assume many people have heard “Japanese are …” or “She is so American!” etc. A group of people in a category have something common, but that is not all about them. We, visually impaired persons, share common needs to some extent; but at the same time, we are unique individuals with our own needs and preferences! 

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