Photo/IllutrationA special slope was installed at the campaign headquarters of the Reiwa Shinsengumi political party to allow Yasuhiko Funago and Eiko Kimura to appear on the stage. (Shiro Nishihata)

The new Reiwa Shinsengumi political party is likely to capture at least two seats in the July 21 Upper House election, which will force Diet officials to quickly make the chamber accessible for those with severe disabilities.

The party designated two candidates at the top of its candidate list for the proportional representation constituency who both require the assistance of helpers to get around.

Yasuhiko Funago, 61, who headed the ticket, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which causes weakness and shrinkage of the muscles. Second on the list is Eiko Kimura, 54, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

They will not be the first to serve in the Diet in a wheelchair.

From 1977, Eita Yashiro, who first made a name for himself on TV as an emcee, served 18 years as an Upper House member before winning a seat in the Lower House.

After he won for the first time, a slope was installed in the Diet building to make it accessible by wheelchair.

But the wheelchairs used by Funago and Kimura are much bigger than conventional ones because of their special needs.

Officials of the Upper House secretariat said they would have to confirm if the slope and Upper House seating area for those in wheelchairs is sufficient to accommodate the two new lawmakers.

Another potential problem will come during votes in the Upper House.

Because of the precedent set by Yashiro, lawmakers are now allowed to enter the Diet chambers in a wheelchair as long as they inform the secretariat beforehand. Another precedent set by Yashiro was having chamber staff cast ballots on his behalf. Normally, the practice was for lawmakers to climb stairs at the front of the chamber to cast a ballot when voting on legislation.

However, there are no precedents or regulations concerning those who assist those in wheelchairs.

That means new rules will have to be decided about how Funago and Kimura enter the Upper House chamber and committee rooms as well as how they are allowed to ask questions during such sessions.

An official with the Upper House secretariat said that it would likely be up to the Upper House Rules and Administration Committee to discuss what should be done after taking into consideration the circumstances and intentions of the newly elected lawmakers.

When announcing Funago's candidacy, Taro Yamamoto, the head of Reiwa Shinsengumi, said it would be extremely important to reflect Funago's experiences in the Diet because of the rapid graying of the general population and the increasing likelihood that more people will become bed-ridden.

Funago himself said that changes would arise over how to deal with the disabled after the public views what measures have been made to allow him to speak in the Diet.

Kimura also said that she wanted to make herself a living example of what policy changes were needed to help the disabled.