From The Japan News
September 5 2021
TOKYO – The incorporation of accessible designs for hotels and other accommodation facilities in Japan made great headway in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Games, but there is still much room for improvement. It may take a long time after the Games are over to achieve 100% accessibility.
Hotel Kazusaya in Nihombashi, Tokyo, reopened in summer last year following a major refurbishment carried out in sync with the original schedule of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The doorways of its guest rooms have been resized to 85 centimeters wide.
At the stage of planning, the doorway width was set at 75 centimeters. But in 2019, the Tokyo metropolitan government amended its relevant ordinance for hotels. Under the new standard, the doorways of rooms in newly built hotels or newly added facilities must be “a minimum of 80 centimeters in breadth,” so that wheelchairs can get through the doorway easily.
Hotel Kazusaya made a change to the design of its guest room doorways although it did not have to meet the new requirement this time.
“The days will come when a large number of wheelchair users will stay in hotels as guests such as people with physical disabilities and elderly people. We should aim at having our hotel easier for them to use,” said Tetsuo Kudo, the 68-year-old president of the hotel.
“If the doorway is 85 centimeters wide, even a guest using a relatively large wheelchair can enter and exit easily. Our guest rooms cannot be described as completely accessible because we can’t secure enough floor space, but we’ve managed to offer more options for guests with physical impairments.”
In 2020, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo remodeled nine of its guest rooms to make them more comfortable for guests with physical disabilities.
Inside a closet, a removable bar for a coat hanger has been installed at a height of about 1 meter from the floor. Under a washstand, an open space has been arranged so that it would become more accessible to people in wheelchairs. By replacing the hinges of the door, the doorway opening width of guest rooms has also been broadened to 82 centimeters.
“The remodeling has no adverse impact even when used by guests with no physical impairments, and makes the rooms more user-friendly to everyone,” an official of the hotel said. “We would like to move ahead with creating such an environment in other guest rooms, as well.”
Yet, such movements in the accommodation industry have been limited at best. And it is hard to say that the response to calls for an “inclusive society” has advanced markedly on the occasion of the Tokyo Games.
After the International Paralympic Committee pointed out that there were too few accessible rooms, the Japanese government in September 2019 made it mandatory for hotels and other accommodations to have “more than 1% of the total number of their guest rooms” be accessible.
Previously, the operators of these facilities were only required to have at least one universal guest room, irrespective of how many guest rooms they had.
The situation does not seem to have changed much as there are not many hotels newly built or newly renovated. As the accommodation industry has been hit hard by the prolonged novel coronavirus crisis, prospects for the future also look dim.
An official at a hotel chain explained: “The remodeling of existing facilities cannot be done readily. All we do now is to respond to calls for accessibility in a broader sense. For example, we are installing devices that will enable guests with hearing impairments to know the arrival of visitors with a light.”
Hotel users have pointed out that some hotels do not provide enough information related to accessibility.
“There are many things that we won’t be able to know until we arrive at the hotel rooms, such as whether we can get to the bed or enter a toilet in a wheelchair. As travelers with physical impairments want to know whether they can use the hotel facilities in their current state,” said wheelchair traveler Tatsuya Miyo, 32. He serves as a supervisor at a leading travel agency to advise on better travel in a wheelchair, using his experiences traveling around the world without any aid.
“Hotels should provide guests with lots of photographs and detailed information about their facilities on their websites or through other means.”