“Go for the Disabled” is Taking a Big Step That Might Change the World
Distinguished Visiting Professor (Kanagawa University) and Former Governor of Miyagi Prefecture
People with physical and mental disabilities are enjoying the Japanese board game of Go. Although I am an outsider to the world of Go, I have some insight into people with disabilities. I would like to consider things from their perspective and to think about the topic of Go and the disabled.
Disabled people play Go because it is fun. In Go you have an opponent. When playing the game you communicate with your opponent. For disabled people who don’t have a lot of experience communicating with others, Go offers them a great opportunity. That in itself is enjoyable.
And it’s not just fun. For people with higher brain dysfunction, playing Go helps to improve their disability. People with developmental disabilities can improve their powers of concentration and attention through Go. Go is wonderful for the disabled.
Some people are surprised and impressed when they see people with disabilities play Go. I was one of them. People who are visually impaired used a special tactile Aigo Go board to play the game. A person with such severe disabilities that he or she cannot hold a Go stone can play a normal person. By the way, the Aigo Go board was revived by Mitsuharu Kakishima, the representative director of the Japan Go Society for the Visually Impaired. Shinwaya Ekubo, an employment support facility for intellectually disabled people in Manda, Hiratsuka City, is involved in board production. Severely disabled people play Go, and intellectually disabled people produce the tactile board and other products. When you know this, the mistaken and prejudicial attitude of “disabled people can’t do anything, poor things” kind of melts away. It seems that to an extent the Paralympic Games have helped ordinary people understand more about people with disabilities. But there are still many who cannot lose the feeling that people with disabilities are different from themselves. I want them to watch disabled people enjoying Go.