From the town of hot springs, Beppu city, to Japan, and all over the world, a facility supports the independence of persons with disabilities under the philosophy of “Not Charity, but a Chance!” In 1965, the father of Japanese Paralympics, Dr. Nakamura Yutaka, has established this company to achieve a society where people with disabilities also can work equally; Taiyo no Ie. Enterprises such as Omron, Sony, Honda, Mitsubishi Corporation, Denso and FUJITSU FSAS INC. that agreed with him are partners for Taiyo no Ie where around 1,100 people with disabilities can work together.
It is the only few firms in Japan where the equal society is ideally operating.
“Taiyo no Ie” opened “Taiyo Museum,” allowing everyone to interact with equipment for persons with disabilities in July 2020.
At the Taiyo Museum, visitors can seize an opportunity to try out tools supporting the lives of people with disabilities. For instance, visitors can roll a racing wheelchair, a wheelchair for basketball, and drive a specially modified car for people with disabilities. The facility also provides multilingual support for visitors from overseas.
They designed the facility with wide-open corridors, bathrooms, and even the height of exhibitions to have a better experience for people with disabilities too. It will be an excellent opportunity to compare with “normal” living space.
“When I tried riding a wheelchair, I was surprised how low my eyesight was. I had to look up twice as high as usual” I thought. This was the first time I realized the big difference between a non-handicapped person and a person with disabilities. For example, my eyesight is limited when I’m in a wheelchair. At the same time, I need to work hard to turn around to look back.
We are putting so much effort into creating an environment where everyone can live comfortably regardless of disabilities. Yet, there is still a big gap between ideal and reality. In the first place, I am still confused with the word “handicapped people.”
In the article written by Mr. Matsuda on HERALBONY, I recently read about a quote saying, “the problem with this country is the existence of a word HANDICAP.” In the article, the word “handicap” exists because of the delay of a society’s structure and technology. It is not a disability but supposed to be a difference. By understanding this difference little by little, we surely will get closer to an ideal society where people can co-exist.
However, we are far away from this goal at the moment. To be more specific, according to employees at the Taiyo museum, even if the angle of the slope’s inclination rises 2 - 3%, it will give extra pressure on wheelchair users. Although the facility intended to help the users, it might end up as extra work for them.
To improve the current situation, the interactive process will be an essential key factor.
Director of Taiyo Museum, Mr. Yotsuya, says, “Experiencing leaves a bigger influence than watching the action. At the same time, it is more likely to make an action. I hope by experiencing what people with disabilities face in their daily lives, it gives them time to think about an inclusive society where people can live happily all together”.
For example, people without disabilities can try riding wheelchairs on a slope to feel how much pressure it gives to their arms. Also, using spoons and scissors of universal design would be a good practice as well.
These real experiences lead everyone to reconsider the difficulties people with disabilities face during their daily lives. By understanding these clearly, guide everyone to a specific action. An inclusive society is concerning people with disabilities and being colleagues, neighbors, and friends without any prejudices.
It has been 55 years since the Taiyo no Ie's establishment. At local supermarkets, disabled people are working, and everyone is warmly welcoming. Regardless of the abilities people have, people help each other to work together. The comprehensive community is here, and it is a rare exceptional model for Japan.
"We are all different and are all wonderful. Everyone needs to stay who we are, and there is no need to be who people want you to be".
The message Taiyo Museum delivers has a meaningful wish for us to live in modern society.
Born in Beppu City. I have been working to revitalize the local area by promoting tourism and urban development. In my second year of college, I studied in San Francisco, California. I visited the headquarters of GAFAM, one of the world's top IT companies, to visit their offices and interview local employees. I'm currently working on company website development, blogging, and developing a community-based takeout app.