Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Fostering Creators of the Future
MATHESON Miki / Project Manager, Nippon Foundation Paralympics Support Center, Gold Medalist, Nagano 1988 Winter Paralympic Games

September 10, 2021
The word “tsukuru” in Japanese, meaning “to make” or “to foster” in English, conjures an image of creating something new or some new situation. I used to think of it as a positive word. But after a certain point in the past, on an increasing number of occasions, I came to feel uneasy, dissatisfied or even irritated at times about “things made by someone else”, be it a building, facility, system or custom, or information. Then I was startled by my own realization that “systems that will produce people who are incapable” or “things and situations that will bring to people a sense of self-loss and alienation” are made and exist in society.

This realization was most likely triggered by the fact that my own standing in society had been drastically changed and seriously affected my outlook on the world around me. Some 30 years ago, when I was cycling across a pedestrian crossing under a green light, I was hit by a dump truck driven by a driver dozing off at the wheel. Thus I started my life on a wheelchair. While in hospital, I thought that it would just mean using a wheelchair instead of walking when moving from one place to another. Such optimism was immediately crushed upon leaving the hospital. I discovered that there was a severe limit to the institutions, facilities and services accessible to wheelchair users. All of a sudden, it seemed as if I were an extraneous encumbrance to society. An acute sense of alienation hit me whenever I found myself in a situation where people like me had not been envisaged as possible end-users.

Thus I came to feel that society cannot better itself unless we can bring about changes in the awareness of those who make “things”, “matters” and “programs” in one form or another. If that is the case, I would rather take part in activities to foster creators of the future. I would aim at instilling the idea of “inclusiveness” in people’s minds, so that there will be more and more places where those with disabilities can feel “comfortable”, that is, feel at ease, have a peace of mind, exert their skills and capabilities, and feel that they, too, have a role to play. A friend of mine with visual disability chooses to go shopping to a supermarket some distance away from her home.
The reason is that there is a cane holder at the checkout counter, which makes it easy to open the purse with both hands to pay. My friend is glad to be counted as one of the customers.
Admittedly, it requires the help of many people to change society, and it will take time. But, with all that help, we can both “imagine” and “create” (the Japanese word for both these verbs is “souzou”) the kind of future that we long for and the kind of place which will bring comfort to many more people.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalization. It has reduced the places for people to congregate as well as the chances for experiences with human touch. It has diluted real human-to-human communication. In order to live resiliently in this age of uncertainty, we need to respect diversity, care about our engagement with others and society at large, and think about the value of human-to-human ties and co-existence.

The Paralympic experience has taught me to “develop the habit of thinking not about what I cannot do, but about what I should do to be able to do what I wish to do”. It has also taught me that when you see that there is a problem, it shows that you are still lacking in ideas on how to solve it. These are the concepts that I would like to impart to people. By so doing, I hope to play my part in ensuring that there will be more and more young people who believe in themselves and tackle the future affirmatively on the strength of their beliefs. Then society will transform itself into a better place.

Miki Matheson competed in Ice Sledge Speed Racing in the 1998 Nagano Winter Paralympics Games, winning 3 Gold Medals and 1 Silver Medal. This essay appeared in the August 2021 edition of the monthly journal KAJIMA.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

マセソン美季 / 日本財団パラリンピックサポートセンター推進戦略部プロジェクトマネージャー、長野1998冬季パラリンピック 金メダリスト

2021年 9月 10日




筆者は長野1998パラリンピック冬季競技大会 アイススレッジスピードレースに出場、金メダル3、銀メダル1を獲得。1500mでは世界新記録樹立。本稿は、月刊KAJIMA 2021.08に掲載された。
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟