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Wheelchair using physician supports accessible stadiums through Twitter

"Sports venues are places where people with and without disabilities can come together and enjoy [an event]," Yukishita said. "I want the Games to be the catalyst to bring about change, so people with disabilities will feel more comfortable going out more often."

By Barrier Free Japan with an extract from The Japan News

June 4th 2021

A doctor who uses a wheelchair has been attracting a lot of attention as he has posted photos on Twitter of accessible seating areas at more than 20 sports stadiums and other facilities in Japan and the United States.

Takehiko Yukishita, a 48-year-old part-time lecturer at Juntendo University, highlights the challenges someone who uses a wheelchair faces when attempting to attend sporting events.

Yukishita began posting about accessible seating areas at sports facilities on Twitter around 2006. Since 2018, he has tweeted photos with messages about more than 20 sports facilities in Japan and the United States. The posts contain the hashtag meaning “accessible seating around the world” in Japanese.

In summer 1996, when Yukishita was in his sixth year at Juntendo University School of Medicine, he damaged his spine during a rugby match. As a result of the injury, he was paralyzed below the neck.

After being discharged from the hospital, he graduated from Juntendo University and enrolled in a university in the United States in 2002.

“I hope my posts will trigger a discussion and get people to think about how sports stadiums can be made more accessible for everyone,” he said.

“It’s great that there’s a clear line of sight,” Yukishita posted in September 2019 about an accessible seating area at the International Stadium Yokohama, which was one of the venues for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Yukishita wrote that he had an unobstructed good view of the match.

However, he gave a negative review for another accessible seating area located in a different section of the same stadium. He realized that if someone were to stand in front of him, his view would be obstructed. The seating area was small, and it would be difficult for an accompanying person to sit next to him.

Yukishita was an advisor for the Japan Sports Agency from 2016 to 2018. During his time, he proposed such ideas as organizing sports events that allowed people with disabilities to participate.

Even though many facilities have become more accessible in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, he thinks there are still many things that need to be improved.

For example, it took an hour for him to finally enter a stadium because the elevators were crowded and accessible parking was not available because it was being used by those without disabilities.

“Sports venues are places where people with and without disabilities can come together and enjoy [an event],” Yukishita said. “I want the Games to be the catalyst to bring about change, so people with disabilities will feel more comfortable going out more often.”

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