'Blending in Outstandingly' is a project about the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games that explores the place of people with a disability in Japanese society

 While visiting Japan in the spring of 2019, I noticed that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are omnipresent in the streets of Tokyo. And the Paralympics are, too. Both receive an equal amount of publicity. Being from Belgium and having a brother with a disability this observation triggered a question: how do people with disabilities find their place in Japanese society?

With the support of the Marilo Fund and the King Baudouin Foundation I will be visiting Japan again in the fall of 2019 to document stories from Paralympic athletes, people with a disability, disability experts, company managers, family members of people with a disability, and many others. 

Throughout these interviews I want to explore Japanese history, contemporary culture and present-day dynamics. With this project I aim to spark interest from Belgian audiences in Japanese culture. Also, I hope to contribute to the harmonic integration of people with disabilities in society, both in Japan and in Belgium alike. For me personally, that would be the ultimate goal. 

About this project

Why? | Disability is part of human nature
All across the globe, in every family, neighborhood, company or organization you will find a person who is somehow related to someone with a disability. It is a universal topic. It is a topic that spans different periods in history and that knows no borders. Therefore, is the ideal topic to build bridges between cultures.

How? | Research and interviews
My research includes an historical, an economical and a social dimension. Questions that trigger me include: How have been people with a disability been treated throughout Japanese history? Has this been changing the last couple of decades? Are the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games a milestone or a catalyst for change? What are the differences and similarities between Japanese and European societies?

What? | Stories that will resonate
The primary goal of my visit to Japan is to write newspaper articles that appeal to Belgian thought leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, human resource managers and civil servants with an interest in Japan. Often, I will make a comparison between Belgian and Japan.
About me
Growing up with a brother who has an intellectual disability, I’ve witnessed his struggle to find a place society firsthand. Also, I’ve witnessed how Belgian society struggles to provide a place for people with a disability. My debut novel, which will be published in the spring of 2020, is about my brother's wonderful and courageous struggle. By sharing his story, I hope to raise awareness about the topic and contribute to the harmonic integration of people with a disability in Belgian society.​​​​​​​
In my attempt to understand the world we all share, I studied Sociology at the University of Antwerp (Belgium), Cultural Theory at Frei Universität Berlin (Germany) and Literary Sciences at KU Leuven (Belgium). After having worked as a researcher, I started freelancing as a journalist, editor and translator. I’m still enjoying that decision every day. 
I lecture at Thomas More University of Applied Sciences, where I teach subjects such as psychology, sociology and intercultural communication. Also, I am a creative writing coach in Antwerp, where I live and spend most of my time. I try to swim, run or cycle at least once a week and hope to complete 1/3 of a triatlon before I turn 33.
Get in touch​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
If you know someone who might be interested in ‘Blending in Outstandingly’, feel free to bring this website to his or her attention. I’m hoping that — somehow — the universe will foster valuable connections. If you have questions, suggestions, or a story you would like to share, please do get in touch:​ ​
Mobile: +32 498 36 69 73
Skype: thomas.abelshausen
Line ID: thomas.abelshausen
A word of thanks | This project would not have been possible without the support of the Marilo Funda unique initiative that promotes commercial, cultural, and social relations between Japan and Belgium. The Marilio fund is managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, a public benefit foundation seeking to change society for the better.
© 2019, inkernaut