Aloha, my name is Atsuko Kuwana and my disability is a spinal cord injury. I have used a wheelchair ever since I was born and raised in Japan, and have lived in the United States for the last 30 years. I moved to Hawaii about a year and a half ago from Washington DC, and currently working part- time and appreciating the warm weather, beautiful scenery, and the Aloha spirit.
In the early 80’s I moved to Berkeley, California – the mecca of the Independent Living Movement for people with disabilities. I was able to meet many leaders with disabilities who shared with me their insight on equality, inclusion, and the fundamental human rights for people with disabilities. As a person with a disability, I deeply believe people with disabilities deserve to be welcomed, and allowed the same freedoms as a non-disabled person.
After I moved to the States, I had a chance to participate in swimming, sit-skiing, tennis, yoga; as well as other activities I never had chances to do until I moved to Hawaii. For me these recreational sports help restore and fuel me both as a woman and a wheelchair-user; restoring as well as fueling my independence and sense of freedom in the world around me.
A few months before I moved to Hawaii, a close friend of mine first told me about the AccesSurf program. At first I was hesitant on how I could possibly surf and how accessible, and safe it would be in the ocean. But knowing me, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to experiment in something different since I had just moved to the Hawaii. By experimenting, I found out that participants at AccesSurf consist of all different ages and have variety of disabilities, adaptive devices are easy to handle, and there are many experienced surfing instructors volunteering and incredibly helpful as they all enjoy what they do.
After also adding scuba diving and paddling to my marine sports checklist, I realized why I enjoy it so much. It’s not just the calmness of the sands or the sun vibrating off the waves, I love the ocean because in the ocean; I feel no difference between disabled and non-disabled. I can let the ocean accept me for all of me. There’s always bright smiles, and good times with AccesSurf so if you’re interested, please come join and enjoy the fun.