TAKAMATSU--Yoshiko Takeda knows all too well that her numb limbs are not suited to walking to safety in the event of an emergency.

A nearby evacuation shelter sits 400 meters from her home, and it is difficult for Takeda, 66, to “flee on my own” due to congenital cerebral palsy.

She has been plagued by a sense of anxiety since she started living by herself 28 years ago.

The only thing she can carry by herself is a bag full of the minimum required sanitary items and other relief goods.

A caregiver stays with Takeda, who has difficulty speaking clearly, during the day. If a disaster occurs at night when she is alone, however, Takeda may not be able to save herself.

This reality drove Takeda to become a licensed disaster-relief specialist this past spring. She was looking to work with the private license as a regional anti-disaster leader in the hopes that no one will be left helpless with regards to disaster preparations.

“There are individuals who don't want to die but can't ask for assistance on their own,” Takeda said. “I would like others to learn about those people.”

Applicants normally take a written test, but Takeda passed the exam via an oral interview.

Studying social welfare at college, Takeda has been serving as secretary-general of the private Takamatsu Volunteer association for more than 40 years to link disabled individuals with local communities.

Takeda proposed three years ago that an emergency-themed questionnaire survey be carried out to identify issues that those with physical, intellectual or mental disabilities are facing in Kagawa Prefecture.

The results of the study of 710 people showed that many of them have given up dealing with disasters. 

One respondent expressed “no intention of escaping to an evacuation center,” while another said the “only option for me is to die.”

Acting on the thought that “building face-to-face connections with each other will help save lives,” Takeda is planning to call on both healthy people and those with disabilities to deepen bonds by participating in regional disaster drills.

The activity is in line with her four-decade pursuit of realizing a “local community where everyone can live together.”