Able and disabled. These words make me uncomfortable. When I was 16 years old, I was called “disabled,” which gives me some insight into the naturally separate feelings of both groups.
What is disability?
Simply put, it’s a condition or thing that impedes progression.
For example, when I was 16 years old, my left side was paralyzed. It was impossible for me to walk on my own. However, when I “moved” I was able to move “under my own power,” even though there were problems. I could go to the bathroom with someone’s help, I could use a wheelchair to get where I wanted to go.
If “disability” was about my physical condition or ability to do things, then it could be said that the disability was removed once I mastered the wheelchair.
Our mission is to help young people who have difficulties participating fully in society to become independent. In this way, we can understand that the opposite of disability is independence. This is something I know very well.
A lot of young people we support have trouble making their own decisions or taking action on their own, which are obstacles to their progression. When we “others” get involved, we must ask ourselves: what difficulties are they experiencing? What in their background is causing the difficulty making decisions? What is the source of their anxiety over making decisions? By working together with the person, we can find the answers to these questions together.
As a result of this process, they begin to be able to make their own decisions and take action on their own. They begin to overcome their difficulties and grow.
In these cases, it’s us, a third party, not the parents or siblings, who are removing the “disability.”
In our work, it is people who are helping to remove the “disability.” There must be ways – with people, things, or methods – that can remove all the disabilities in the world.
Whether it is inherent or acquired, physical or mental, people experience disability and suffering in their lives. If we can correctly assist with people, things, and methods, the world will be able to erase words like “abled” and “disabled”. I’ve been thinking about this for the past 20 years.
Disabilities are not only conditions we can see.
No matter how healthy people appear to be, they must have various “disabilities” in their minds.
I believe people need to move on from these crude categorizations.
We have the opportunity to get a glimpse of our students as they take on the challenge of transforming their lives.
People deserve the chance to be happier and learn how to be happy.
There is no such thing as an able person. Everyone has problems with something. Similarly, there is no such thing as a disabled person. Disability is a state people are in, and with the power of human ingenuity, we can support people to overcome them.
– Hidetaka Nagaoka
Translation note: In Japanese, the word for “disability”, “obstacle” and “difficulty” are the same. To preserve the continuous line of thinking, I have translated it as “disability” throughout, however, there may be some cases where the word “obstacle” or “difficulty” would tend to be used instead in English.