April 22 2021
Utsunomiya City – People with disabilities are complaining that barrier-free measures are inadequate at the Kanseki Stadium Tochigi in Utsunomiya City, the main venue for the National Sports Festival for the Disabled to be held in Tochigi Prefecture in 2022. The stadium does not meet the standards of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) because the view of the wheelchair seats is blocked when spectators in the front row stand up. The ramp leading to the entrance of the spectator seating area is long, and some people have pointed out that it is dangerous. Some people are concerned about the impact on disabled athletes and are calling for renovations.
The stadium is the core facility of the Comprehensive Sports Zone, construction of which began in March 2005 and was completed in 2008.
In June 2001, the IPC established standards for ensuring visibility from wheelchair seats, stating that “when a person in front of you stands up, you should be able to see him/her without disturbing him/her, even if you are sitting in a wheelchair, just like the person in front of you who stood up. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism also stipulated the same in its guidelines formulated in July 2003.
In a general question to the prefectural assembly, the prefectural government said that it would refer to the IPC standards in its development policy for the stadium. However, the stadium’s wheelchair seats do not have much difference in height from the front row and do not meet IPC standards.
The sports promotion division of the prefecture, which operates the facility, said, “When the national guidelines were issued, the basic design had been completed, and we were aware of the IPC standards, but we don’t know why they were not reflected. We have confirmed that the front seats cannot be seen if the person in front of them stands up, so we are dealing with this by leaving the front seats empty,” he explained.
The slope leading to the entrance of the spectator seating area on the second floor has a 5% gradient and is about 200 meters long. Kunpei Otsuka, 40, a wheelchair user and the president of a non-profit organization in the city that provides barrier-free consulting services nationwide, said, “The length of the ramp is out of the ordinary. It’s too long, and people could get injured.
In addition, there is only one elevator for general visitors, and only a few pairs of wheelchair users and their companions can ride together.
A member of a sports organization for the handicapped in the prefecture said, “I’ve seen the National Athletic Meet venues all over Japan over the years, but this is the first time I’ve seen facilities that are not so handicapped-friendly. I’m worried that it will interfere with the operation of the Games.
The prefectural government’s National Sports Festival for the Disabled Division, which is in charge of running the event, said, “We understand that there are many issues to overcome. We would like to use our ingenuity to hold a safe and secure event.
On the other hand, Mr. Otsuka told the prefectural government, “The facility will also serve as a disaster prevention base in the event of a disaster. It should be surveyed and renovated from the perspective of people with disabilities.