Reader Mail

The importance of perspective when it comes to disabilities

Regarding Mark Schilling’s Wide Angle column headlined “Filming disability from a new angle” in the Sept. 8 edition, as a fellow wheelchair user I want to thank activist and documentary filmmaker Mizuko Yamaoka for bringing attention to the small things that affect the lives of people with disabilities every day.

Like Yamaoka, I struggle with the issue of “semi-invisibility” in my interactions with peers and colleagues, particularly in more social settings. In fact, I had actually just come home from a party when I noticed the article about Yamaoka online. At this particular party as well as others, it was difficult for me to join some conversations. It was also difficult for me to engage with especially tall people. Taller individuals may unintentionally loom over me in a slightly menacing way when I am sitting in my wheelchair, and I often have to crane my neck up to make eye contact with them.

Even in relatively accessible “barrier-free” countries, regardless of whether we live in Japan or elsewhere in the world, all wheelchair users face the same problem of experiencing social isolation while sticking out. Yet Yamaoka’s work as a filmmaker reminds me that I can try to bring awareness to the small problems that I face as an “ordinary person” who happens to lead a very sedentary life by necessity. I may not be able to do much, but maybe I can try to shift some friends’ perspectives, allowing them to glimpse life at my “angle” (in a chair). Maybe the next time that I see friends standing around at a party, I’ll simply start with, “Would you like to sit down?”

SHELLEY ZHOU
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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