From Kyodo News
January 2nd 2020
Japan is accelerating up its efforts to make accommodation and transport facilities more accessible ahead of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, but some people with disabilities have questioned whether enough is being done.
While the games are touted as a chance to create a more inclusive society, a Kyodo News survey showed 66 percent of respondents did not see any improvement in accessibility or understanding of disabilities since 2013, when Tokyo was awarded hosting rights. In comparison, 34 percent said they had noticed progress.
The survey targeting people with disabilities across the country was conducted from June to July 2019 in cooperation with the Japan Disability Forum and the Nationwide Support Center for Students with Disabilities. A total of 564 people responded to the survey.
According to another Kyodo News survey conducted from June to August, 98 of 175 responding para athletes aiming for the Tokyo Games said accessibility at public facilities and transportation systems needed to be improved.
Kimie Bessho, a 71-year-old para table tennis player, said, “There aren’t many hotels with barrier-free access.”
Against this backdrop, the revised “barrier-free” enforcement order came into effect in September. Newly built or renovated hotels and inns with total floor space of at least 2,000 square meters and 50 guestrooms or more must make at least 1 percent of their rooms accessible to wheelchair users.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said in a recent interview, “We enacted the country’s first ordinance of its kind, which makes hotel guestrooms barrier-free.”
Koike said she hoped improved accessibility would contribute to “sellout crowds” during the Paralympics.
In Tokyo, work to increase the capacity of venues, ease expected congestion and improve accessibility for wheelchair users is picking up pace.
Such efforts are already in full swing at train and subway stations around the National Stadium, the main venue for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
At JR Sendagaya Station in Shibuya Ward, close to the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, construction was under way on a new platform with improved accessibility. It is part of a new station building with an increased number of elevators, expected to open next spring.
At Tatsumi Station in Koto Ward, close to swimming competition venues, a new elevator with capacity for 20 passengers is already in operation.
According to Tokyo Metro Co., nine stations including Tatsumi were to undergo improvements or installation of elevators for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“We have further accelerated our barrier-free initiative at stations ever since Tokyo was elected as the host city,” said Kazunori Wakita, who is in charge of measures related to the Games at Tokyo Metro.