Disability Elderly Japan Travel

A Railway Station worker in Japan offers advice on how to assist the disabled, begging the question: What is ‘reasonable accommodation?’

"If you are asked for assistance by a disabled person or an elderly person at the station, how far should you respond? A letter from an station employee of a Japanese railroad company sent to the 'life section' of The Chunichi Shimbun offered this advice..."

Written with extracts translated from The Chunichi Shimbun

November 6th 2019

‘Take me Home’

If you are asked for assistance by a disabled person or an elderly person at the station, how far should you respond? A letter from an station employee of a Japanese railroad company sent to the ‘life section’ of The Chunichi Shimbun offered this advice:

The ‘Act to Eliminate Discrimination Against Disabled People’ which was passed in into law in 2016 mandates “reasonable accommodation” from government agencies and businesses when they are asked for assistance. However, the needs and situations of people with disabilities vary. There is a possibility of being liable for accidents, and many people are worried on site.

Take the wheelchair

“Take a wheelchair to the entrance of the house”

In August, a man in his fifties who worked at a private railway station in the Tokai region was puzzled by the request of an elderly man who got off. The man, because of an illness  was unable to walk. The man’s home is about 100 meters from the station. However, if you accept it, you may not only leave the workplace but be mistaken for a thief. I explained and declined the request.

The same elderly man asked me to send her home this spring. At this time, two station staff attended and laid them on their bed. A colleague was asked by a disabled person in a wheelchair to process an artificial bladder with urine.

The company has a manual on how to handle wheelchairs. However, there is no way to respond to a sudden request for assistance. I want to help as much as I can.

The ‘Act to Eliminate Discrimination Against Disabled People’, requires administrative agencies and establishments to “reasonably accommodate” disabilities. The private sector is obliged to make efforts, but it is necessary to respond to the request for assistance within the “range that is not too heavy”. If it is difficult, explain why and try to gain an understanding.

What is “reasonable consideration”? According to the Cabinet Office, first of all, it is limited to those going to work, enabling the same opportunities to work afforded to people without disabilities.

For example, when there is a step in the station, it is appropriate to use a mobile slope to assist disabled people in wheelchairs. On the other hand, unless you pick up and drop off as part of your business, it doesn’t mean that you don’t care. Also, even if you are asked to do physical care such as meal assistance at a restaurant or bathing assistance at a hot spring facility, unless you are doing it as a business, you will not be taken into account.

The Cabinet Office publishes casebooks on its website. It encourages responses. However, the characteristics of disabilities and the necessary support are diverse and highly individual, and much of the actual judgment is left open.

I cannot take responsibility for an accident

The Nagoya City Transportation Bureau has acquired “private service assistants” at all subway stations and city bus sales offices, and has assigned one or more staff who are familiar with wheelchair operations. It corresponds to getting on and off the subway, but depends on the situation whether they can respond to another sudden request. The person in charge says, “When you ’re busy, don’t leave the bus or station to help.”

Some companies have established certain standards. At Keio Plaza Hotel (Tokyo), 30% of employees have completed private examinations for the treatment of people with disabilities. The person in charge says, “I ask you to arrange a person who will help you outside the site.”

Mitsukoshi Isetan Holdings (Tokyo) created a handbook in 2018. There are cases that may actually occur, such as “toilet assistance”, and support for touching the body is not supported. “Because there is a possibility that we cannot take responsibility if there is an accident”.

SOS is the last resort

The ‘Act to Eliminate Discrimination Against Disabled People’, means governments and business establishments to“ reasonably consider ”people with disabilities and older people who need support. While there are many people who are worried about how much they should respond to the request, Katsunori Fujii (70), who is representative of the NPO Japan Council of Persons with Disabilities (Tokyo) “When I go out, I try to help myself as much as I can. “I want you to determine if there is an urgency such as risk of life or if there is any obstacle to your work, and if you need assistance beyond the common sense,” he says.

Even if it is difficult to deal with, consider whether there are other means of assistance such as family and helpers. If you do not know the emergency contact information, contact the local welfare office (welfare section of the government office), the Regional Comprehensive Support Center for Elderly Care Consultation, or the consultation support office for persons with disabilities. It is helpful to have a list of welfare contacts in your area.

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