TEHRAN – Mohammad Pashai, an Iranian resident of Japan who became paralyzed from the waist down after an accident at work, is expanding the horizons of his disabled compatriots back home by sending them secondhand wheelchairs and other assistive devices.
Pashai said he has been encouraged by the kindness of the Japanese and wants to do the same for his disabled compatriots in Iran.
In early August, the Kanagawa Prefecture resident was in Tehran to interact with wheelchair users there on one of his regular visits home. He used the occasion to explain the motives behind his actions.
Now 47, Pashai went to Japan in 1991 with the dream of mastering the architectural technologies he wanted to introduce to Iran. But things did not turn out as he wished.
One day in 2004, while working at a construction site for a new building, he was seriously injured when a crane collapsed. The accident left him unconscious for six weeks. When he came to, he found he had lost all feeling below his waist.
All he could do was look at the hospital ceiling.
“My life does not make sense if this is how I have to live,” Pashai thought as he lay in bed.
Gradually, he came into contact with Japanese people with similar disabilities who were using electric wheelchairs to go out independently, ride public transport and get on with life.
They patiently taught him how to do things without asking other people for help.
“I could feel the kindness of Japanese people in a lot of places,” he said.
Inspired by their warmth, he began to work hard at his rehabilitation. Once he was able to get around by himself, Pashai’s family back home told him of people with disabilities in Iran who had no access to electric beds or wheelchairs.
Those able to go out, they said, are often hampered by Iran’s uneven streets or other obstacles, such as stairs.
Sympathizing with their situation, Pashai sought help from the nurse who visits his home in Hadano twice a week. He asked if there were any wheelchairs no longer in use that he could receive.
In January 2010, Pashai set up a nonprofit organization called Mint Society for Iranians with Physical Handicaps. It collects unneeded or secondhand electric beds and wheelchairs with the help of people including his nurse and wheelchair dealers.
After repairing the beds and wheelchairs, the Hadano-based NPO ships them to Iran.
“I also meet with welfare experts in Japan and invite them to go to Iran with me to hold workshops on the theme of ‘barrier free’ (living),” Pashai added.
Ahad Rahimi, 41, is among those who have received both a wheelchair and an electric bed from Pashai’s NPO.
Rahimi had been house-bound for about four years, berating himself for being involved in a traffic accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Thanks to the wheelchair and bed, he gradually recovered his confidence and can now take trips by himself.
“My life has changed and I feel really happy,” he said.
Pashai said the NPO intends to carry on promoting barrier-free living in Iran.
The organization will invite more nurses and experts experienced in rehabilitation to hold seminars in Iran while seeking solutions to other problems — such as road conditions — that make it difficult for people with disabilities to navigate the streets.
“It is the Japanese people’s kindness that enabled me to find another dream,” Pashai said. He thinks it is his turn to support those with disabilities in Iran.