July 16th 2018
The tourism ministry will step up efforts to make the nation’s airports more accessible for disabled people ahead of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it has been learned.
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry will ask airport operators to introduce various new features, including special vehicles equipped with a lift to help wheelchair users board airplanes, and special lights at restrooms to alert the hearing impaired of emergencies when they are using such facilities.
More people with disabilities are expected to visit Japan as the Games approach. The ministry will revise guidelines for airport facilities, which have been compiled based on the Barrier-Free Law, as early as August.
The revised guidelines will call on business operators to remove obstacles to passengers as they move from their point of arrival at the airport to the point at which they board a plane, and later when they reach their destinations. The ministry will especially focus on airports without bridges that enable passengers to directly board a plane from the terminal, requesting they use special vehicles with a lift that can carry wheelchair users.
According to a ministry survey of airport facilities conducted in April, only 16 of the 87 terminals at 75 airports across the country had introduced such special vehicles.
Planes operated by low-cost carriers, which have seen a surge in demand in recent years, are often parked far away from terminal buildings, while even major airliners often use boarding ramps when passengers disembark at regional airports.
In June last year, a disabled man had to board a plane at Amami Airport in Kagoshima Prefecture by climbing a boarding ramp using only his arms, as he was unable to use his wheelchair.
The ministry will also urge airports to equip restrooms with lights that blink when a fire or other emergency occurs, as it is difficult for the hearing impaired to realize what is happening outside when using such facilities.