'Sitting in my wheelchair my line of sight is lower than most. 106 cm to be precise. Yet it is because of this that I can offer new perspectives and have so much to tell the world.'
These are the words of Toshiya Kakiuchi, a businessman who provides consulting services on ‘universal design’ – a movement that sits on the leading edge of the design industry with one simple aim in mind: to ensure an environment - from its architecture to its furnishings, from its technology to its general composition - is open and accessible in the widest range of possible situations to the greatest number of people without the need for adaptation or assistive devices.
Born with Brittle Bone Disease, a genetic condition where abnormities in the production of collagen in the body cause bones to easily break, Kakiuchi has undergone over 20 corrective surgeries. However, rather than allowing his condition to limit his action in the world, even from an early age he sought to set himself goals and remove any barriers he faced.
Fifth grade marks the point at which his condition began to impact significantly on his daily life, when he found himself spending more and more time in a wheelchair. Affected increasingly by a sense of guilt at having to rely on others for help, he began to take more and more time away from the classroom. It was the start of a situation that came to a head at high school.
Desperate to move freely by means of his own two feet, he took an extended leave of absence to undergo surgery and long-term rehabilitation. Yet it was to be a long, hard and painful road in vain, as the doctor broke the devastating news he may never walk again.
Overwhelmed by self-pity and asking himself, ‘Why me?’ he made his way to the hospital roof fully intending to throw himself off. To his surprise and consternation, however, he found the roof’s protective fence a barrier too far for his weak legs. Unable to climb the fence, he collapsed in tears.