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On walking wheels in Ginza... / 16 September 2014


A visit or so ago I discovered the most sparkly wheelchair on display on the designer floor of a Tokyo department store. I attempted to enquire about this diamanté encrusted spectacle, but could find no-one able to tell me more. I kept an eye on the space.
The chair disappeared for a while, but now it's back together with the words 'walking chair' - I'm thinking about that...
Not one day goes by without seeing someone with a visible disability out on the streets, being normal - people in walking chairs, people on crutches or with sticks. Wobbly people, people with white sticks and people with oxygen bottles.
I saw a man with one arm - the empty sleeve of his shirt folded in a bold origami statement across his chest.

Some cynically English part of me wonders if this 'display of disabled' is also part of the early preparation for Tokyo's Olympic Triumph. I cannot imagine that these souls on streets will be pushed back in their boxes, returned to some pre-enlightenment stage when the eye of the world looks elsewhere. The English experience is not one to emulate (or easy to forget).
It could, of course, just be that my eyes are adjusting. This proliferation of diversity may always have been here and me - too mesmerised by the unfamiliar to notice.

Traces of Tokyo's preparations are everywhere, Olympic and Paralympic alike. I cannot help but feel that there is something more universal, more consistent and wholesome, about the changes that are being envisioned and put into practice already.
The new signs for designated 'courtesy seats' on the metro are not the dreaded stick-people, or cute cartoons, but an abstract black and white design that looks to me more like an opening blossom.
Some creative interpretations of said 'stick-person' make me laugh, but also give me seeds of hope for the future.
Hope that Japanese people have enough faith in their own values not to get phased by comparisons or bamboozled by missionaries of so called equal rights.
Hope for a bright future on walking wheels.




It seems I'm not the only one
to notice. In tandem with the
proliferation of printed
notices for English speakers,
and disabled ones at that, we
disabled people are out in
Tokyo; rolling, dragging our
limbs and oxygen bottles; here,
wobbling our way through; visible,
out making good use of the Braille
buttons in lifts; filling up the
wheelchair spaces and courtesy
seating. Tokyo may be packed, but
the considered, deliberate
pace of life allows for greater
comfort in diversity. A
greater sense of identity.
Tokyo 2020 buzzes
already and surely here, there
will be no sick media, no
political animals who
undo, who rip apart, turn back
time on civilization.