New rules to increase barrier free lodging to be introduced

From The Japan News

June 20th 2018

he Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has decided to review the installation standards for hotels and inns in an effort to increase the number of wheelchair-friendly guest rooms.

The ministry’s move comes in response to the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are expected to draw large numbers of disabled foreign visitors, as well as the nation’s own rapidly aging population. It plans to revise the enforcement ordinance of the Barrier-Free Law (see below) by the end of next year.

The ordinance sets quantitative criteria that must be met for rooms at hotels and inns to be labeled barrier-free. For example, doors to a room, toilet or bathroom must be “at least 80 centimeters wide and have no steps.”

Currently, facilities with 50 rooms or more are obliged to have at least one barrier-free room, a situation that allows even 1,000-room hotels to get away with installing just one room of the type.

With new standards, hotels and inns with 50 or more rooms will be required to ensure “at least 1 percent of their rooms are barrier-free.” This means that 1,000-room hotels must install 10 or more barrier-free rooms.

The revised standards will be applied to newly constructed facilities or existing facilities that undergo renovation or expansion. The ministry believes the standards will cover some hotels being built for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“We’d like to lay the groundwork for a dramatic increase in the number of barrier-free rooms after the Tokyo Games,” a ministry official said.

In May last year, the International Paralympic Committee pointed out that Tokyo has relatively few barrier-free rooms compared to other large cities around the world. According to the ministry, Britain has standards requiring one barrier-free room per 20 regular rooms — or 5 percent. According to a ministry survey conducted on 102,766 rooms in 606 facilities nationwide, only 0.4 percent, or 368 rooms, were barrier-free.

“Regular rooms usually don’t have enough space to turn wheelchairs and are far from comfortable,” said Spinal Injuries Japan President Makoto Ohama, who uses an electric wheelchair. “Expansion [of the standards] is a step forward, and we appreciate it.”

■ Barrier Free Law

Enforced in 2006 and officially named the Law for Promoting Easy Mobility and Accessibility for the Aged and Disabled. The law makes it mandatory set up slopes and remove steps at transport facilities, roads and buildings used by large numbers of the general public, so as to provide elderly and disabled people comfort and easier mobility.

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