Yukinori Tamaki What Mr. Tamaki Yukinori wants to tell now - "No one is useless"

What Mr. Tamaki Yukinori wants to tell now -"No one is useless"

Yoshinori Tamaki, a director of "Nishinomiya City Social Welfare Council - Disability Comprehensive Counseling Support Center Nishinomiya," is aiding for disabled people to live in the community. He is also well-known for being featured in the barrier free variety show called “Bari Bara” which was aired by NHK (E TV). On this show, he delivers his thoughts for viewers to understand and make use of his own experiences with disability of cerebral palsy. He is well known for the impressiveness and honesty of his speeches. I interviewed him to ask of his experiences from a young age that became the base of his current work to promoting community activities involvement, and about the incidents related to the disabled which occurred in Sagamihara.

<Early childhood that became the base of work>

- What kind of child were you?

When I was born, I was in an incubator for three days under an asphyxiation condition. At this stage, generally a doctor starts explaining that there will be a possibility of the child getting cerebral palsy and that they will monitor the situation. However, since I gained my breathing back, the doctor sent my mother and me back to home without any doubt. Just before turning 3 years old, I caught a cold and my mother took me to a nearby pediatrician. It was there that my mother was for the first time notified that I had permanent cerebral palsy. It was a bolt from the blue for my mother, and she doesn’t even remember how she came back home because she was so shocked. I heard that there were times my mother tried to jump into the railroad crossing with me, but each time I cried, so she decided not to go through with it and went on her way back to home every time.

At that time, Hyogo prefecture had an era when there was a counter-measure room where misfortune children could not be born, and I was a symbol of misfortune for the Hyogo prefecture. When a child with a disability was born, the difficult thought preceded in general. My mother simply wanted me to be cured, so she visited so many hospitals. About the end of age of 4, my parents asked me to go to the aquarium, yet we ended up arriving at the rehabilitation center instead. They explained that I would have training and surgery for my legs there, and that I’d be required to live my life separately from my parents all of the sudden. In the story I heard later, I had been crying for three months. It was very sad that I could only see my parents for a certain number of times and dates. I had been thinking why was I the only one who must be tortured like this? To be here while everyone else was having dinner and taking a bath with their mother and father every day? This feeling is my starting point for the work I currently do, leading to the belief that I will live to the end in this community.

- Have you treated your legs successfully?

After everything, my legs did not get better. Perhaps the physician at that time was not skilled with treating this condition. The surgery I had consisted of just cutting the back of my knee and injecting it. Afterword, I could not even sit down because of this surgery. There are many people who have had similar experiences from this surgery suring this era. When thinking about what disability is, it’s not just an obstacle not to walk, I realized that there is obstacle in society that I cannot live successfully without walking. I think that it is my role to change such a society.

<I want society to see what can be done rather than what can’t>

- When were you discharged from the center?

I was discharged from the center after a year and a half, and was transferred to kindergarten from the third term of seniority. At that time, Himeji City had a kindergarten located next to their elementary schools, and it was an environment where almost compulsory education began from kindergarten. I thought I could go to the next elementary school without any doubt. But because there was a problem with my preschool checkup, I was judged to go to a school for the disabled. After taking the compulsory examination, it was decided that I was equivalent to attend regular classes, and as a result I could be admitted to regular school.

However, before I was due to attend school, my parents were called to the principal's office and were told that my admission would not be allowed unless they wrote a pledge that the "school was not responsible for any accidents that may take place during the time of back and forth between school and home". Normally, schools have insurance that covers for accidents and/or injuries at school and/or going back and forth between school and home, so they don’t generally require this sort of request. I think that the school was concerned that if something happened to me, they would be in trouble.

- How did you spend your school life after enrollment?

There were many good things that occurred after I started. For example, my 2nd grade teacher used to sit next to me and helped me write notes in my notebook while everyone else was copying the contents on the blackboard. In 6th grade, for the school field trip, my teacher suggested to have another teacher accompany me for the trip. My teacher jokingly asked which teacher I liked the best to accompany me, and I nominated my 4th grade teacher. Then that teacher was standing in front of me with her luggage on the day of the trip! Also, during 6th grader’s summer vacation supplementary classes, my 6th grade teacher picked me up and dropped me off.

In retrospect, I think that I had a very good environment in elementary school. Now it seems like society always segments everything, and looking for reasons to do so is normal. I often think why can’t they do now what has been done in the past in terms of interaction? I believe that it is important to think about how we can do it.

<The accumulation of social experience is important to live in the community>

- How did you spend your time in middle school and high school?

I also spent my middle school in regular classes. In deciding which high school to attend, my middle school teacher suggested to attend a disabled school with a dormitory -as there would be some challenges for me to face including that if I didn’t pass tests, I wouldn’t be promoted to the next grade. I didn’t feel like it, but I went to a disabled school. As a result, I felt uncomfortable at times. For example, if there were pages that were not taught in class at the end of the semester, teacher said that we skipped them just because that part would have been too difficult for us. Meanwhile, school said that we should study so that we do not have to worry when going back out into society. Being within this closed environment, I thought “what is a society with limited people having to live a limited life?” I thought that it was inconsistent with not being enabled to have much social experience and restricting the environment we were in as well.

People with disabilities will gain strength by being provided appropriate social experiences. In social life, it is important to accumulate experiences and it is necessary to recognize that it is not "a child who cannot do ◯◯" but "a child who was not let to learn ◯◯." While the parents and people around those of us with disabilities took the power to determine what they perceived we are not yet ready for, we became adults without any social experiences. I think that it is important – to be able to live normally within the community.

- How do you get involved with the community now?

The other day, my condominium management association decided to take barrier-free measure. I heard it from my wife and so I created documents on my own using PowerPoint to suggest to them where they should refurbish areas to be better. The management company thanked me and said, “This is important”. They are making progress little by little, such as placing rubbers to the steps of the entrance to make it smooth. There are so many things that can limit my access/abilities, so I would like to cooperate with projects such as this to bring a disabled perspective. I think that community planning is something you do not fully realize unless you disseminate it to all parties and see it from all angles.

<If we face each other closely, the word of obstacles will disappear>

- How do you usually spend your time with your family?

My son is a freshman in university and my daughter is a sophomore in high school. As I am busy running around and not at home a lot, even if I bring something home for them, they just don’t seem as excited as they were when they were younger! (LOL)

When my children went to kindergarten, I would pick them up and drop them off. One day, my son told me that he did not want to go to school, so I asked him the reason and he told me that his friends were calling me “Hula Hula Man”. I said to him, “All superheroes have “Man” such as Ultra-Man, Anpan-Man and Super-Man. Everyone loves me, but they don’t know how to call me - that is why they are calling me Hula Hula Man, don’t you think? Your father is popular!” Then he decided to go to kindergarten again.

When my son was in the 4th grade, he learned about disabilities in his welfare learning class. When he came home he asked me, "Father, are you a disabled?" When I heard this, I thought it was funny and felt like “Didn’t you know that till now?” Since teachers were also not necessarily familiar with disabled people, they only taught about disabilities as a part of learning knowledge. My children don’t see me as a disabled person but as a "Father". If we face each other closely, someday the word of obstacles will disappear. 

<Bari Bara show is a very influential work>

- What do you think about the influence of your speech in the Bari Bara show?

NHK's programs are often advanced finely according to the script. But I do not have a script. "Tamaki, put together" "Tamaki, one word" is written only so my part is almost ad lib. When discussing before recording, I mentioned my opinions, including that this is not right to use this VTR. It's a 30-minute show, but it has turned into 90 minutes of the camera and they are making an environment where I can say what I think in my own words. That is why I can continue.

Besides the good things, there was a comment from a friend with disabilities who said, "This show is just an energetic disabled person saying whatever he wants to say". I was very shocked and felt down. On the other hand, when I went to the lecture, a person thanked me and said, “My mother with a language disorder has now spoken” after she watched my lecture. I think it is immeasurable to know where and how I can influence others. I am very thankful and I keep expressing and sharing my true thoughts as they are.

<Continue thinking, Do not stop thinking>

- What do you think about the incident in Sagamihara?

When I got up in the morning and turned on the TV, the incident was being reported. I saw an ambulance was departing still after 5 hours of the incident. I thought that perhaps they could not find a hospital to take the disabled in. Even when we have a general sickness such as scars or a stomach ache, many hospitals send us away because they are not specialized in disabled people. I questioned if the government really had a desire to save these disabled people seriously and this made me feel scared. In addition, the media reported that the criminal insisted that "People with disabilities should not exist." How did disabled people across the country feel after hearing this news? There was no consideration by reporters, it was painful for me.

Since that incident, the facility has been rebuilding. I am hoping to build public housings and support them so that people with disabilities can live independently. Initially, the idea that families should take care of handicapped and elderly family members, not allowing them to be independent, is not respectful of that individual. It is important that we keep asking what they want to do, and respect and understand it.

When I had the first special feature about the incident in Sagamihara in the Bari Bara show, I spoke very slowly because I wanted to tell it properly and to not be misunderstood by viewers. I thought I needed to create the chance to think this over for people not only with disabilities but also those who do not have disabilities. I wanted to express to people as much as I could that there is no one being useless.

- What can each of us do?

If I were you, I would like to think seriously how I want to live, where I would like to end at. This is important not only for people with disabilities but for each person to envision how to keep our own lives. Everyone dislikes what I dislike. I don’t like it but there are those people out there who still discriminate. It is important to continue thinking, not to stop thinking. There is no such a thing as needless life.

<After interview>

Mr. Tamaki likes to speak out usually. Sometimes when asking questions, I felt that his style of advancing conversation while respecting the opinion of the others is within his personality and that it’s being practiced from a daily perspective to “get into their shoes.” When I asked Mr. Tamaki speaking eloquently, he said to me that "The most important thing is what I want to tell to others". Tamaki's remarks echoing in the minds of people, which are often noticed at the moment, are the trajectories of the accumulated life, I felt it was the clarity of his thought I wanted to convey.

Shizue Odo

I am from Osaka city, Osaka prefecture. After graduating from Doshisha University, I joined a life insurance company. I worked for the company insurance division for about 7 years. As a newspaper industry reporter from 2015, I engage in writing in business / IT fields. I am also working as a freelance writer. Mother of 6-year-old and 3-year-old boys.

December 20, 2016

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