Written with extracts translated from The Tokyo Shimbun
June 17 2020
“Barrier-free law” aims to realize a society in which people with disabilities and the elderly can move freely. Since its enforcement in 2006, measures have been advanced in terms of facilities such as transportation and buildings. However, due to insufficient operation and response to persons with disabilities, the amendment law enacted in May, following the revision made two years ago, sought to strengthen the soft side, such as the promotion of “barrier-free mind”. What is a barrier-free mind?
The Barrier Free Law requires businesses that manage and operate buses, trains, buildings of a certain scale, roads, etc. to install slopes, elevators, toilets for the disabled, and eliminate steps. Of these, transportation is targeted at passenger facilities such as stations and airports, which have more than 3,000 passengers a day. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, at the end of the 18th year, 90% of the target had solved the unevenness and the Braille block had already been installed.
However, there is a problem that the equipment and functions are not fully utilized. For example, taxis have been recommended by the national government to introduce a universal design (UD) that allows passengers to stay in wheelchairs, but there are many cases where drivers are unfamiliar with the operation and refuse to board people with disabilities. It has also become clear that there are stations where the lights are too dark for people with visual impairment to walk.
For this reason, in this revised law, the government has set new standards for software, such as the procedure for installing slopes used by people in wheelchairs to get on and off buses, trains, taxis, etc., and ensuring sufficient brightness at stations.
The government newly presented measures for not only hard aspects but also soft aspects with the revision of the law for 18 years, and announced the promotion of “barrier-free mind”. It encourages municipalities to create and provide barrier-free maps that show the location of slopes and toilets for people with disabilities in the city, and requests business operators to train staff.
It is the VPO Chairman of the DPI Japan Conference, a non-profit organization that supports the independent living of persons with disabilities (Chubu Osaka) City) Koji Onoue (60), the representative director. Among them, what I expect to have “educational effect” is that it is obligatory to make the public elementary and junior high schools barrier-free when newly building or expanding or remodeling.
Currently, compulsory buildings include hospitals, stores, libraries, special needs schools, etc. with a floor area of 2,000 square meters or more. Public elementary and junior high schools are used by many residents with disabilities as evacuation shelters and polling stations for elections, but are not mandated. Some local governments, such as Osaka Prefecture, also include it as a target, but 66% of the elementary and junior high school buildings that are designated as evacuation centers and are supposed to be used by people with disabilities and others who need attention should be eliminated. (As of April 19).
According to the revised law, the country’s support for “mental barrier-free” education and awareness was also included. Mr. Onoue pointed out that barriers are becoming more common in schools and that children with and without disabilities can learn together, so that they will be able to view disabilities as their own problems. “If barrier-free advances, everyone will be able to move freely. Obstacles will help people realize that they are created by the conditions of society and the environment.”