Barrier Free Blind Disability Japan Travel

The steps at JR Ochanomizu station are “scary”, say visually impaired people upon inspecting the platform

Members of the All Japan Council for the Visually Impaired, a group of visually impaired people, have inspected the dangers of JR Ochanomizu Station (Chiyoda Ward) and Yoyogi Station (Shibuya Ward), both of which have steps on the platform. At Ochanomizu Station, which does not have a platform door, they believe that people could fall off the platform.

From The Tokyo Shimbun

July 24 2021

TOKYO – Members of the All Japan Council for the Visually Impaired, a group of visually impaired people, have inspected the dangers of JR Ochanomizu Station (Chiyoda Ward) and Yoyogi Station (Shibuya Ward), both of which have steps on the platform. At Ochanomizu Station, which does not have a platform door, they believe that people could fall off the platform if they miss the step, and they will ask JR East to make improvements. Yoyogi station, where platform doors have already been installed, was analyzed as “safe”.

The inspection was carried out on the 4th of this month by members of the council’s urban development committee and carers. In the downstairs platform of Ochanomizu Station, where the Chuo and Sobu Line trains stop, there are three steps at the east end of the platform that are more than 50 centimeters high. “Although an announcement is made that there are steps, the distance from the steps to the edge of the platform is less than two metres in some places. “

It is structurally difficult to clear the steps, and without platform doors, it is quite dangerous for the visually impaired. Kanji Yamashiro, 65, who has severe low vision, was pale.  

Another problem was also found. In the middle of the platform there were several places where posts had been placed over Braille blocks. There is also a huge wall-like obstacle in the middle of the platform. To change between the Chuo and Sobu lines, a person of adult height would have to crouch down. It is a pure barrier for the visually impaired.  

Masanori Matsukawa, 65, a blind acupuncture and moxibustion massage therapist in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, said, “If you hit an obstacle, you lose your sense of direction,” and feared that a collision could cause him to fall. We also inspected the up platform at Ochanomizu station and found a similar bump. It is lower than the one on the down line, but there is no handrail. The distance from the step to the tracks was even shorter than on the down line.  

The next stop was seven stops west of Ochanomizu on the Sobu Line. The platform at Yoyogi station, where the Yamanote line also stops, was inspected. As at Ochanomizu, there is a step at the end of the platform, but a platform door has been installed. Mr. Yamashiro was reassured that he would not fall off the platform. It’s a great way to get to know your fellow passengers,” he said.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has urged railway operators to install platform doors on a priority basis at stations with more than 100,000 passengers a day in order to prevent accidents involving falls.    According to the Tokyo Branch of JR East, more than 200,000 people use Ochanomizu Station each day. The spokesperson explained that the reason why platform doors have not been installed is that “we are currently trying to coordinate the station improvement work with the work to introduce green cars to the Chuo Rapid Line. “A spokesman for the station said, “We are studying the possibility of installing the new system as soon as possible.  

A new station square is currently under construction at the station. As there are many university hospitals nearby, the station is also undergoing barrier-free construction to install lifts and escalators, which many users have requested. Although the barrier-free construction has been partially completed, it is said to be difficult and time-consuming due to the unique location of the platform, which is sandwiched between the Kanda River on the north side, a cliff on the south side and a bridge on both the east and west sides.    As the steps and platform doors are also potentially life-threatening, it is hoped that immediate action will be taken, including the deployment of station staff to support the disabled and calls for cooperation from surrounding users.

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