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【Center News】The Challenge for Tomorrow School visiting program, "Asuchalle", Launched

Press Conference Held for “Asuchalle”, a New Project to Show Children the Powerful Force of Para-Sports

The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center announced at a press conference held on April 8 the launch, Challenge for Tomorrow School “Asuchalle”, para-sports school visiting program. The Asuchalle School will offer opportunities for children and students to experience para-sports.

Under this program, para-sports athletes will be dispatched to elementary, junior and senior high schools nationwide as an initiative toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The aim is to provide children opportunities to learn and build awareness by meeting para-sports athletes and experiencing para-sports.

Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation and special advisor to the Paralympic Support Center, said, at the press conference, “Our hope is to make it widely known to children the existence of para-athletics and -athletes, who provide inspiration to all through their dedication and hard work.”

This was followed by a comment from Yasushi Yamawaki, Chair of Paralympic Support Center, we want to provide an opportunity for children to recognize diversity, and become aware of the value of pursuing possibilities and the importance of having opportunities to try things regardless of whether or not you have an impairment. “

Toshiaki Endo, the Minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Daichi Suzuki, Commissioner of the Japan Sports Agency, also took part in the press conference. Minister Endo said, “To enable the realization of a truly inclusive society, we want children to begin by developing an interest in and a desire to watch para-sports through participation in the Asuchalle School. Meanwhile, Commissioner Suzuki spoke of his expectations. He said, “I have watched many different para-sports events, but I am again feeling their diversity. We are seeing an increasing number of supporters, and I sometimes wonder if perhaps Paralympics will become even more popular than Olympic sports events. I hope that the Asuchalle School will trigger even greater popularity of para-sports.”

Meet Half a Million Children at 1,000 Schools

Shinji Negi, Challenge for Tomorrow School “Asuchalle” Project Director

This project is based on an initiative begun 25 years ago by Shinji Negi (Captain of the Japan Wheelchair Basketball team at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics), who assumed the post of Project Director. On the basis of his experiences up to now, he spoke passionately about the significance of the Asuchalle School. He said:

Most children have never seen a para-sport event. However, once they see it being unfolded before them, they are surprised by the sheer power of the events and think that it is “really awesome.” Coming into contact with para-sports also seems to change their impression of people with physical challenges. And, once you have them experience para-sports for themselves, they understand that they are not easy but still fun. They also develop an appreciation for how wonderful it is to work toward a goal. We would like to go to 100 schools during this fiscal year and meet 30,000 students. Our goal is to visit 1,000 schools and reach half a million students by 2020.

Sights are also set on fostering human resources that will enable this project to be held in para-sports other than wheelchair basketball. Representing two strong candidate sports, wheelchair rugby player Daisuke Ikezaki and boccia athlete Takayuki Hirose, who are both hopefuls for the Rio Paralympics, appeared on stage with television personality Matsuko Deluxe (advisor to the Paralympic Support Center). The appeal of the two sports was described, and demonstrations were given of these para-sports.

Introductions of boccia and wheelchair rugby were provided

Shinji Negi deftly circled the small stage on a wheelchair to be used in the Asuchalle School while dribbling a basketball.
Daisuke Ikezaki “tackled” Shinji Negi, wheelchair rugby style. Although he said he only used about 60% of the normal force, exclamations of surprise filled the venue at the loud contact noise made by the two wheelchairs. Meanwhile, Takayuki Hirose played boccia on stage and explained the importance of strategy in this sport. Matsuko Deluxe was impressed by the well-toned bodies of the two para-athletes and amazed by the clever moves involved in boccia, feeling anew the appeal of para-sports.

The three para-athletes were asked at the end, “What is your ‘Asuchalle‘ challenge for tomorrow?” Project Director Negi said, “I will become friends with all of the children I will be meeting from now.” Rugby’s Ikezaki said, “I want to try for the Gold at the Rio Paralympic Games,” and boccia’s Hirose said, “I will also do my best to take part in the Rio Paralympics and achieve good results.”

The “Bmaps” Barrier-free Map Application Released

With an eye to the Paralympic Games being hosted in Tokyo in 2020, the Nippon Foundation also released “Bmaps,” a map that provides information on the inclusive design available at various locations. The goal is to help create a society that allows anyone to leave their homes and go out without any worries.

Shuichi Ohno, Executive Director of the Nippon Foundation, said:We developed a smartphone app where users can contribute or view information on the inclusive design of shops and various other facilities. More than 16,000 entries have already been registered, and in terms of the scope of the inclusive-design information available, it is among the largest in the world. To further improve the usefulness of this app, we aim for 1 million entries by 2020. Bmaps is currently available in English and Japanese, but we will work to include more languages so that it can become a global standard app.

Emcee Rio Hirai tries pushing a wheelchair up a step..

Toshiya Kakiuchi, President of Mirairo Inc., which developed the app, and advisor to the Paralympic Support Center said, “My hope is that it will be an app that can be utilized by everyone, whether or not they have impairments.” Kazumi Nakayama (athletics), a wheelchair user, also appeared on stage. She commented, “When going out to eat, for example, some of the important points for choosing a restaurant include whether or not there are any steps or curbs, or a multipurpose restroom. Because I travel by car, I also need some space in the parking lot for getting in or out of the car.” Matsuko Deluxe tried her hand at going up or down a curb in a wheelchair and agreed. “When you’re in a wheelchair, a seemingly small curb felt like a mountain to me, and I found it scary. Shops that are registered on this app will see an increase in customers, so it should have an economic benefit for them. I know places that have wide entrances and slopes, so I’ll enter them on the app.”

Going forward, there are plans to hold events for the collection of information on facilities with inclusive design. Calls will also be made for the provision of related information by individuals, local governments, businesses, communities, organizations and groups.

text & photo by Parasapo
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