“Daisuke Ikezaki, a wheelchair rugby player, shows us how to think differently about barriers | FRIDAY DIGITAL

“Daisuke Ikezaki, a wheelchair rugby player, shows us how to think differently about barriers

"There is no such thing as a barrier-free world..." Therefore, taking the first step that anyone can take will lower the "barrier.

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Wheelchair rugby ace Daisuke Ikezaki (right) won his second consecutive bronze medal. Ikezaki, who had been chasing only the gold medal, shed tears after losing in the semifinals.

“Do you need grip strength?

The Japanese wheelchair rugby team won the bronze medal. Wheelchair rugby is a full-contact sport that allows wheelchairs to collide with each other, and the intensity of the game is a major attraction. The risk of a wheelchair breaking during a game is a prerequisite, so the mechanics who repair the wheelchairs are on the bench.

However, the players who play with such intensity have different types and severities of disabilities. In Daisuke Ikezaki’s case, it is Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It is a disease of the peripheral nerves that causes muscle weakness in the fingers and toes. Ikezaki developed this disease when he was six years old. He says that his grip strength, which he originally had, gradually decreased and is now almost non-existent.

In a word, what is the condition of having no grip strength and what kind of inconvenience does it cause?

“For me, it’s like, is grip strength really necessary? From my point of view, it’s like, do you need grip strength?

Ikezaki’s answer was difficult.

“I don’t need to use my fingers. When you open the lid of a plastic bottle, you pick it up with your fingers and turn it, right? But you don’t need to use your grip or your fingers to open it.

When I actually tried it, I found that it was not easy to open a plastic bottle without using my fingers. Not only opening and closing a PET bottle, but without grip strength, it is difficult to perform even the smallest of daily activities. Even so, Ikezaki uses a razor to shave and ties his necktie to his liking. He also fastens the buttons on his shirts by using a “button helper” or by wearing a snap-type shirt. However, it takes a long time to do everything by myself, so I sometimes ask for help from the staff.

If I take my time, I can do everything,” she says. But the question is whether that time is wasted or not. Time equals life, doesn’t it? So I think about how to devise a way to do things quickly.

Naturally, I want to take care of myself. Naturally, I want to take care of myself, but even the small things I do on a daily basis are not “small” if they take a lot of time and effort. The expression “time equals life” is heavy, but perhaps accurate. Ikezaki also says that each person must have their own difficulties.

“I don’t like the word ‘disabled’. I don’t like the word ‘disabled,’ because I think that even able-bodied people have various difficulties, and there are things they can do and things they can’t do. When we face our own bodies, there are things that we can’t do, we may need help from others or pay someone to do it for us. But I always try to think about how I can do things that would be easy if I relied on others. For example, if I can’t hold the toothbrush well enough to brush my teeth, I can just use an electric toothbrush, right?

It is true that even for healthy people, if they have difficulties, the measures they take will not be much different. You can either find a way to do it yourself or get help from someone else. It’s just a matter of balancing how much money and time it will take to find a way.

However, until I interviewed Ikezaki, I had never thought about the world without a grip, and I knew nothing about it.

“If you don’t know about it, it means you don’t have the opportunity to meet or talk to such people. If you know about them, you can imagine how long it takes to meet them, even if they don’t show up until half an hour after they are supposed to.

An exchange event held in Chiba Prefecture in April 2016. Through such opportunities, I hope that the sense of “helping those in need” will spread widely, regardless of disabilities (Photo: Afro)

Helping those in need. That’s mutual support.

If you don’t know, you can’t even imagine such a thing. However, Ikezaki doesn’t think it is necessarily necessary to tell people who don’t know about this reality.

“I think I need to tell them, but I also think I don’t need to tell them. If I tell people I’m having a hard time, they might feel sorry for me. I don’t want to do that. I just want to say that I’m doing my best, and everyone else should do their best, too. When I visit schools, I tell them that if they work hard, they can do things that they can’t do, and that they need to have the strength to devise and think for themselves and work hard until they can do them.

Kindness is not the same as sympathy. Being kind is not the same as sympathy, and even if you know this in your head, it is not easy.

Ikezaki said that he noticed something at Corona Damages.

“Nowadays, when you enter a store, you see alcohol disinfectant sprays, but most of them you have to step on with your foot. Most of them you have to step on with your foot. I’m like, ‘Damn it,’ so I push the alcohol out with my hand, but I don’t think people in wheelchairs are considered. It’s true that there may be hygiene problems with the push type, but I wonder what people in wheelchairs as well as blind people do with the foot-operated type. I’d like you to think about it.

This is a valuable suggestion. On the other hand, he said he felt the kindness of people because of the Corona disaster.

On the other hand, he said that he felt people’s kindness because of the corona disaster: “I feel that people became kinder after the OLYMPAL was postponed for a year because of the corona disaster. I think people become kinder when they can share their pain. Corona came equally to the disabled and the able-bodied. Maybe it’s because everyone has to work together to put things right, but I think there are more people who are very kind. I often get approached by people asking if I’m okay or if I can help. I don’t know if it’s just around me or if it’s because of the area I’m working in, but that’s how I feel.

It would be better if we could talk to each other on a regular basis, not just because of the Corona disaster.

“It would be better if we could talk to each other on a regular basis, not just because of the Corona disaster, but also because we could lend a helping hand to those in need, regardless of whether they are disabled or able-bodied. I think that is what mutual support is all about. I believe that there is no such thing as a barrier-free world. There are definitely barriers. But we have to overcome those barriers by supporting each other. That’s why I think communication is so important. I sometimes pick up lost things from people.

Lending a hand to someone in need. I would like to take the first step, thinking that it is easier said than done.

  • Interviewed and written by Yoshiko Ryokai

    Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1975. Graduated from the Department of History, Faculty of Letters, Japan Women's University, and started reporting on soccer in 2001, and became a writer after covering the 2003 World Youth Cup (now U-20 World Cup) in UAE. Has covered four World Cups and three Summer Olympics, and has been living in Dusseldorf, Germany since March 11, 2011.

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