There is one year left before the start of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. The world is watching Japan’s policies toward people with disabilities. How much progress has there been in the nation’s efforts to create an inclusive society?
In the area of public transportation, work to widen ticket gates and install additional elevators is being carried out, mainly at stations located near sports grounds and arenas in Tokyo, including JR Sendagaya Station. According to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, barrier-free routes for passengers to get to the platforms have been secured at 90 percent of stations of a certain size or larger.
In accommodation facilities, guest rooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs are being developed. The Tokyo metropolitan government has not only increased its subsidies for the cost of lodging facilities to conduct barrier-free renovations, but also will make it obligatory, starting in September, for the specifications of general guest rooms to be accessible to people using a wheelchair.
Necessary work must be carried out steadily before the start of the Games.
However, it is difficult to say that there has been sufficient consideration from the viewpoint of the disabled.
Regarding routes from the stations to sports arenas, for instance, some have pointed out that tactile paving blocks end partway there, or that there are many steps and slopes. Nor is it easy to collect information on where barrier-free facilities can be found.
Volunteers will be of help in such circumstances. The Tokyo government plans to develop 30,000 such volunteers, with their training to start in October. They will be required to learn how to show people the way to sports arenas and how to push wheelchairs. It is important to improve measures related to human elements, in addition to those of hardware elements.
Promote mutual respect
Viewing the Games as a precious opportunity to realize an inclusive society with the disabled, the government in 2017 mapped out action programs. One pillar of the programs is a “barrier-free mind.” This is an endeavor to change the mind-set of people who unwittingly tend to differentiate themselves from those with disabilities.
The Disability Equality Training Forum, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization, has repeatedly held group learning sessions in various parts of the country, with people with disabilities serving as facilitators of the workshops. By discussing with participants from the general public such matters as “what disabilities mean,” the organization is making efforts to share awareness of the issues involved.
Many restaurants in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, provide menus in braille and boards for communication via writing. Opportunities for coming into contact with disabled people have increased, so some have said that regardless of whether a person has a disability, they have become able to deal with them as individual customers.
It is necessary for such attitudes as everyone showing respect for each other to spread in society through these efforts.
As candidates with serious disabilities won seats in the House of Councillors election in July, renovations were hastily carried out at the Diet so that people in large wheelchairs can sit in the assembly hall. This development can also be considered to have demonstrated that the Diet previously never presumed there would be any attendance by people with serious disabilities.
Are there things that people with disabilities find inconvenient in society? The remaining year should be used as an opportunity to examine such issues anew.