UNESCO is renewing its call for submission of stories reflecting the lives of persons with disabilities around the world on its dedicated platform, Story for Development. Testimonies of persons with disabilities are celebrating their incredible achievements that spans all walks of life; from sports to music and disaster reduction and tells us how accessibility and inclusion are indispensable to sustainable development and social progress.
Supported by the Nippon Foundation, Story for Development is the first platform dedicated to successful persons with disabilities around the world, located through self-identification and recommendations of different stakeholders. It brings together an interactive collection of stories submitted by persons with disabilities, with links to their written words, audio-files and videos. We invite all persons with disabilities to share their stories, not only to inspire those who are in a similar position or face similar obstacles, but also to make their voices heard by wider audiences and actors working in the public and private spheres globally.
Toshiya Kakiuchi, a Japanese entrepreneur with a physical disability, recounts his success in the business world on Story for Development – a project that he developed during his time as a student, now expanded nationwide to universities in Japan.
Mirairo Inc. was established in June 2010. Our first line of work was to create barrier-free maps for universities. In the second year, we also began universal design consultation from the perspective of people with disabilities.
Toshiya Kakiuchi, a Japanese entrepreneur with a physical disability
Believing that “hardware cannot be changed, but the heart can,” Kakiuchi and his colleagues at Mirairo have been providing universal design consulting services to more than 600 companies, organizations and schools in Japan; these services raise awareness about the approaches necessary to facilitate inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities.
What made me think of this business was that through starting universal design consulting, I realized that it was difficult to physically change environments due to budget and space constraints, however, just by changing the response of [the] staff, we were able to resolve many problems relevant to accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Born with Down syndrome, Adedamola Roberts is a five-time Special Olympics Gold Medalist in swimming. In 2003, Roberts attended his first Special Olympic World Games in Ireland, where he was disqualified in track and field due to lane violation. Saddened by the incident, he returned home only to be awarded a medal by Nigeria, which served as an impetus of encouragement that led to his success when he abandoned track and field for swimming.
I took up another sport-swimming-and with a great coach by my side and my team, I have participated in more international events and won gold medals in 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games. These triumphs has given me a sense of purpose while adding value to society. I am happy to keep inspiring parents, coaches and others with a disability that they can achieve greatness.
Beyond the world of sports, Zainab Chinikamwalla visited Benetech’s office in the San Francisco Silicon Valley in 2013 to learn about its initiative, Bookshare – the largest online accessible library of copyrighted content for people with print disabilities. Herself with severe visual impairment, Chinikamwalla recognised the potential of Bookshare in providing access to persons with print disabilities in India; a year later, she joined Bookshare’s office in India and contributed to its growth since its infancy. At the time, she writes, there were only 100,000 accessible books available to persons with print disabilities, but now there are more than half a million books, with 1,500 in Hindi and some hundreds in other Indian languages.
As [Bookshare’s] Head of Membership, Asia and Africa, I am proud to make opportunities for people to study independently because when I was in school, I did not have that option.
Story for Development’s collection of stories constitutes an important set of case studies and data, which allows interested bodies and organisations to make informed decisions regarding policies, community actions, and business plans for the provision of new products and services. The online platform contributes to the empowerment of persons with disabilities, promote universal human rights and liberties and the values of the United Nations in a truly global initiative. Story for Development allows concerned persons and organisations to engage in a unique network, to enjoy worldwide visibility and to enhance corporate social responsibility.