• Kyodo

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A disabled Japanese woman will attempt to cross part of Australia’s Simpson Desert in a specially designed solar car in September to publicize environmental protection and encourage social inclusion for disabled people, according to organizers of the project.

Erina Kawakami, 28, from Hiji, Oita Prefecture, plans to travel about 350 km across the central Australian desert in six days, they said.

She plans to depart from Purni Bore, on the western side of the desert, on Sept. 6 and travel eastward at 10 kph, logging 60 km a day until she arrives at Big Red near Birdsville.

Kawakami will be followed by a doctor and a number of her colleagues to support her in the event of an emergency. Disabled friends made the solar car to meet the needs of Kawakami, who uses a wheelchair after contracting polio but continues to enjoy outdoor activities such as scuba diving.

Kawakami decided to make the journey on the advice of Hans Tholstrup, a solar vehicle adventurer. Two years ago, the noted Australia-based adventurer visited Kawakami’s company — an auto and motorbike parts maker that provides a number of disabled people with jobs.

Kawakami said she hopes other disabled people will follow her lead if the trip is a success.

Her mother, Hiromi Kawakami, 60, who lives in Niihama, Ehime Prefecture, said she was initially against the journey but later approved because she thought her daughter had to demonstrate her courage.

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