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Experiencing sports for the disabled

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A participant wearing an eye mask chases a soccer ball at a blind soccer event in Tokyo.

By Hitoshi Ono and Akio Oikawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers Events are being held in Tokyo to allow people to experience some of the sports at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games, which is set to open Thursday Japan time.

In anticipation of the Tokyo Paralympics four years from now, local governments that will host Paralympic venues are working to publicize the events. They hope that participants’ understanding of disabled people will deepen through their hands-on experience with the sports.

Blindfolded people who are not disabled chased a ball at a recent event, following instructions like “a little more to the right, to the right” and “Kick there” from others. At one point a player became flustered because the position of the ball was unclear, but applause broke out when they captured the ball by following instructions.

Held in Tokyo on Aug. 30, this event featured the Paralympic sport of blind soccer. About 20 people in their 20s to 50s participated.

Blind soccer is played by visually impaired people using a soccer ball with small bells inside. Players determine where the ball and the goal are by the sound of the bells and oral instructions by a guide called a caller.

The event is held about once a week by the Japan Blind Football Association, a specified nonprofit organization based in Tokyo.

A 23-year-old female company employee who participated said: “I felt I understood how difficult it is for visually impaired people. I also realized the importance of communication while considering the position the other person is in.”

An official of the association said: “We hope the event will make people reconfirm the importance of putting themselves in other people’s shoes in their daily life.”

According to a survey conducted by the metropolitan government in autumn 2014, targeting about 1,900 people living in Tokyo, only 2 percent had watched a sports event for disabled people in a gymnasium or elsewhere.

The Rio Paralympics are therefore a perfect opportunity for people to learn how interesting the matches are and deepen their understanding of disabled people. There are many events that people can participate in without applying in advance, and whether a person has a disability does not matter.

Panasonic Corp. plans to hold events for wheelchair basketball, and riding in a wheelchair for track and field at its showroom in Koto Ward, Tokyo, on Saturday and Sunday.

This past Saturday, the Chiba city government held the Para Sports Festa in Chiba, an event for experiencing some Paralympic sports. Four events of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, including wheelchair fencing, are scheduled to be held in Chiba.

“As Paralympic venues, we’d like to promote a society in which everyone supports each other, regardless of disabilities,” an official in charge at the municipal government said. Another event in which people can experience six kinds of Paralympic sports is planed for Sept. 17-19. For details, check its website at www.city.chiba.jp.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has sponsored hands-on experience programs in various places in Tokyo since last fiscal year. As a special event, videos with a lot of lively, powerful movement in Paralympic sports are being shown on screens at Toei Subway’s Tocho-mae Station and other places until Sept. 21. Sports equipment is also being exhibited.

“Recognition of sports for the disabled is still low,” said Akira Takahashi, visiting professor at the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences, who is an expert on sports for the disabled. “Ahead of the Tokyo Games, I hope activities to spread information will be enhanced by introducing sports for the disabled at primary and middle schools across the nation, and other means, to deepen people’s understanding of disabled people.”Speech

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