On Friday, May 12, 2017, with support from the Center for Social Contribution, the Global Career Education Center hosted the University’s lecture session, “Living with Physical Disability and Conquering Discrimination against the Physically Challenged—Life in Today’s Globalized Society,” in 125 Memorial Hall of Building No. 8 on the Hakusan campus. The session was attended by about 80 people comprising Toyo students, faculty members, and guests from the public.
At age 18, while traveling around Spain in 1976, Anne B. Thomas—the lecturer of this session—suffered a traffic accident and became confined to a wheelchair. Ms. Thomas returned home only three months or so after the accident, having quickly completed her rehabilitation program by the sheer force of her unyielding will. When her doctor subsequently recommended entering a welfare facility, Ms. Thomas saved herself from despair by disagreeing, “It’s my legs that don’t work; not my brain.” To prove her capability of doing anything by herself, Ms. Thomas entered college—the University of New Mexico—far away from home, and earned a degree in law. Back in 1983, people who were physically challenged and confined to wheelchairs faced serious prejudice, and employers were not legally prohibited from refusing applicants on the basis of their disabilities. Nevertheless, such circumstances did not discourage Ms. Thomas from continuing to apply for work, and she eventually secured employment with an oil company in Denver. In 2008, diagnosed with a disease that could shorten her life expectancy, Ms. Thomas resigned from work and while continuing to search for a way to extend her life through various treatments, she also currently conducts storytelling activities to share her many experiences of overcoming adverse circumstances. In addition to stories about her life, Ms. Thomas’s lecture included information on the following themes: 1) social systems including laws in the United States supporting the physically challenged in leading independent lives, 2) the negative aspects of current globalization as a cause of the decreasing employment rate of the physically challenged, and 3) how the internet improves people’s knowledge of physical disabilities and ways they can offer support.
Ms. Thomas’s story of her life, which stretched for almost an hour and a half and was delivered in the present tense, enthralled us all and provided us with an extremely fascinating lecture session.
The lecture was followed by a Q&A session, during which participants asked many questions including, for instance, the following: 1) “Does the United States have programs for active youth participation?” and 2) “What types of legislative systems would you say are needed in the near future?”