Barrier Free Disability Travel

Recent attempt to make escalators in Japan accessible prompts a sense of déjà vu

"Railway companies in Japan run such campaigns almost ever year and it never produces a change in the behavior of commuters since passengers complain that, “changing the convention is a nuisance for people on the go.”"

By Barrier Free Japan

September 23rd 2019

On September 20, Kyodo News reported that moves are being made to make it easier for the elderly and the disabled to use escalators. According to Kyodo News:

“The established custom of standing to one side and keeping the other side open for people in a hurry is being called into question by those who want to make moving stairways safer.”

The Tokyo Physical Therapy Association is pushing for the change in behavior regarding escalator use, and the campaign is gaining some support after a “spate of accidents involving escalators and concerns raised by persons with disabilities that they feel unsafe using them.”

Figures released by the Tokyo Fire Department, show that of the 1,400 people taken to hospital every year from 2012 to 2016, more than 60 percent of those aged 65 in 2016, were admitted due to escalator accidents.

However, as the Kyodo News article also mentions, railway companies in Japan run such campaigns almost ever year and it never produces a change in the behavior of commuters since passengers complain that, “changing the convention is a nuisance for people on the go.”

For example in December 2018, JR Tokyo Station started a campaign – in attempt to increase safety on elevators – a campaign that lasted until February 2019. The campaign started with much fanfare, with “security guards wearing neon-colored vests walked around making the appeal” and posters such as this suggesting people stand still, holding onto the escalators handrails.

When announcing the most recent campaign, a JR East official said: “It won’t be easy to do away with this long-held convention right away, but we hope to make this an opportunity for change, ” they used language very similar to a railway official during the JR Tokyo Station campaign who said “his firm wants to spread information on the safe use of escalators throughout society…changing people’s habit is not easy, but that his firm will not give up on it.”

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