In Hiroshima (1990-2001)


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In March of 1990, my partner graduated from university and found a job at the town office in Kumano Town in Hiroshima Prefecture.  Work started in April and so we moved to Kure City (a neighboring city to Kumano Town) and lived there until September of 2001.  As with our time in Kobe, we focused on grassroots advocacy in the local community through our everyday life.  When my children were in elementary school, parents of other children living nearby, who we came to know well, drove me to school on Parents’ Day.  Because I had 3 children in the same elementary school, during the 1 hour of classroom observation, I had to go to 3 different classrooms.  Between the classrooms, a teacher came after 10 minutes of observation to help me get to the next classroom.

On Thursday May 16, 1991, national public television NHK featured our family and how we lived in their program “Ohayo Journal”.  After this program, I gave many talks at the local elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools.  My talks were never about the terrible discrimination people with disabilities experience.  I spoke to the children/students conditioned to connect disabilities with negative images telling them “You may not believe this, but I have a dead brain!  Surprising, huh?  But there’s nothing wrong with that, I enjoy my life every day.  I go to all of my kid’s Parents’ Day.  I go to lots of places and find lots of interesting things.  I’m never bored.”

When my daughter started going to junior high school, my daughter’s homeroom teacher had seen the NHK “Ohayo Journal” broadcast and understood our situation, so the homeroom teacher asked the assistant homeroom teacher to come with a car to pick me up on Parents’ Day.

I started to use an electric scooter (handle type powered wheelchair) and my world changed.

In April of 1996, my father-in-law who lived in Kamigori Town of Ako County in Hyogo Prefecture suffered a stroke and was rushed to the emergency room.  My younger son who was starting his 3rd year in junior high school stayed with him at the hospital from spring break.  My son took time off from school and stayed with my father-in-law even after school started.  My son took care of my father-in-law all throughout the acute phase when care was most needed.  My son did this until May when my father-in-law was transferred to a hospital in Osaka known for its rehabilitation department.

My younger son when he was in 3rd grade of junior high school

My father-in-law sustained paralysis in his right side and also suffered from impairment in speech (aphasia).  I gave my point of view as a person with disabilities since childhood and negotiated with the hospital regarding his rehabilitation program.  I explained, “Even if he can stand and walk, it is not like he will gain back all his ability as before the stroke.  To insist only on movement exercises is like making him look back at how he used to be.  The important thing is for him to enjoy the rest of his life as freely and actively as possible.  I want you to proactively incorporate assistive technologies and give him as many options as possible so that he can decide things for himself.  I want my father-in-law to be that kind of proactive person.”  We were able to get activities like driving outdoors in powered wheelchairs into his rehabilitation program from when he was still in the hospital.  At that time, such a rehabilitation program was unheard of in Japan.


Follow me!

My father in-laws lived in a house that was a 10 minute drive from the train station.  It was not part of a bus route.  My father-in-law had a strong desire to go home, and so I explained to the chief therapist assigned to my father-in-law and the other staff at the rehabilitation department that walking with a cane was not enough to realize his wish.  They understood my thinking and fully supported us in what we wanted to do.  After my father-in-law returned home, initially I rode in front of him in my powered wheelchair and had him follow me.  He was able to gain confidence in riding his powered wheelchair after doing this several times.  (See photo)

Perfectly comfortable even in town!!

At the time, my mother-in-law had an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa which greatly limited her field of view.  She often fell into ditches and frequently suffered wounds and broken bones in her legs.  With his newly acquired powered wheelchair, it was now my father-in-law’s new daily chore to go grocery shopping instead of my mother-in-law.  The store was 30 minutes away in his wheelchair.  He was not someone that had to be looked after.  He was needed.  My mother-in-law counted on him.  He had difficulty speaking, but with the aid of the shopping list my mother-in-law had written down and by combining simple monosyllable phrases like “Ah” and “Um”, he was able to get help and get the shopping done.  People with disabilities like me have lived in the community for years by asking people around us for needed help and by utilizing helpful tools.  It is a widely held misconception that being “independent” is about doing things by oneself without the support of others.  I look forward to the day when it becomes common practice in our society for needed support to come naturally and surely wherever you are.


In August of 1996, my mother who lived in Himeji was hit by a car while riding a bicycle.  She sustained injuries to the head (depressed skull fracture).  My sister and I stayed with her at the emergency hospital.  She survived and did not seem to suffer from major motor paralysis.  She was however left with double vision.

この投稿文は次の言語で読めます: Japanese

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