Sport has value in everyone’s life and there is no doubt about it. It is even more important in the life of a person with certain disability when there is a desire to build an inclusive society leaving no one behind.
Taguchi Aki, former celebrated athlete of Paralympics and currently vice president of Paralympians Association of Japan, wants to convey the message in every part of the world that disability does not necessarily mean confining oneself within the four walls.
“We’ve the ability to contribute to the society. Yes, we can do that. We need equal attention like other people,” Aki told Dhaka Courier in an interview sitting on a wheelchair.
The impairment to her lower limbs is the outcome of damage to her central nervous system following the rupture of blood vessels in her spinal cord at the age of 25.
Aki visited Bangladesh on March 4-6 as part of a campaign to raise public awareness about the Paralympic Games and the importance of establishing an inclusive society for the greater wellbeing of everyone, particularly persons with disabilities.
“Persons with disabilities have a lot to contribute to the wellbeing of the society. Twenty-five years ago, I received severe injuries to my spinal cord in an accident,” said Aki who began shooting in 2001 in Kobe, Japan.
She said initially, she did not have any plan to get engaged in shooting but had a desire to do something just coming out of the four-wall confinement.
Aki could not stand on her feet but later on, she took up beam rifle. “At one point, I represented my country in the Paralympic Games and made history as I had passed into the final round.”
Calling on persons with disabilities in Bangladesh to engage in sports, she said, “I want persons with disabilities to come forward to take up sports and bring honour for Bangladesh.”
Aki represented Japan in the shooting event for three years in a row at the Paralympic Games which are Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Referring to the Olympic and Paralympic Games together in Tokyo this year, she said it took them long 56 years to do it together demonstrating that “we’re all equal. We wanted to say don’t look at us otherwise. We deserve equal attention. Don’t isolate us. We want to build an inclusive society.”
Tokyo is ready to make history and preparations are underway for the staging of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year.
It is set to be the largest and most-watched ceremony of the year with billions of people expected to tune in to celebrate the Games, according to organisers.
“At the Tokyo 2020 Games, I would like to make an environment not only for shooting athletes, but also all athletes so that they can realise their potential ability and set their personal bests,” Aki said, adding that the spirit of walking together with equal attention should not be stopped after the Olympic and Paralympic Games but it deserves continuation.
“We struggled a lot come to this stage. We want to inspire all. Life has not been barrier-free. But there have been some positive changes. We want to create a society where nobody will be left out but will have a dignified presence,” Aki said emphasising on much aware among people in Bangladesh and beyond.
Talking about Bangladesh, she said Bangladesh and Japan are two separate countries but the voice of persons with disabilities must be heard everywhere to take forward the society.
Aki underlined the importance of accessibility not only on the physical infrastructures but also on the mindset of people without disability for making the society more inclusive, accessible and diverse.
Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki said Tokyo 2020 Paralympics would be the best opportunity to spread the awareness for building more inclusive society.
He hoped to see Bangladeshi Para-athletes to participate in the Paralympic Games in the future.
Paralympic Games is the largest international multi-sport competition for the people with disabilities.
Since the first Paralympics held in 1960 in Rome, they are held every four years immediately after the Olympic Games in the same city.
This year Tokyo will host its second Paralympics in August, which makes it the first city to host the Games for the second time.
During her stay in Dhaka, Aki had a meeting with officials at Bangladesh Olympic Association and shared her experiences to promote sports.
She also visited the Neurodevelopmental Disability Centre (NDDC) operated by Brac Education Programme in Korail slum in the capital.
“During my visit to the Brac School, I had caught sight of a school playground nearby. There I saw all other children were playing with the children with disabilities. It’s a scene that you’ll witness in a very few countries of the world. Brac is doing commendable work. This is what the reality should be everywhere,” she said.