By Barrier Free Japan with extracts from The Tokyo Shimbun
January 23 2022
TOKYO – Of the 175 railroad companies in Japan, including streetcars and monorails, only 97, or more than half, offer discounted fares for people with intellectual disabilities or mental health issues, according to an internal document of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has released internal documents. In urban areas such as the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Chukyo metropolitan area, few companies are offering discounts.
Mental disorders include schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, drug and alcohol addiction, and higher brain dysfunction. According to the 2021 White Paper on Health, Labor and Welfare, there are an estimated 4,193,000 people nationwide, almost the same as 4.36 million people with physical disabilities. There are 1,094,000 people with intellectual disabilities.
According to data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the 97 companies that offer discounted fares for the mentally disabled include public railway companies such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Subway and Nagoya City Subway, two major private railroad companies, such as West Nippon Railway, and 84 small and medium-sized private railway companies, mainly in regional areas.
According to the websites of these companies, many of them offer half-price fares for the disabled themselves or their caregivers under certain conditions.
On the other hand, JR and other companies offer discounted fares for the physically and those with intellectual disabilities but not for the mentally disabled. Compared to physical and intellectual disabilities, mental disabilities were categorized much later, and the disability certificate, which must be presented to receive discounts, was first issued in 1950 for physical disabilities and in 1995 for mental disabilities. This is due to the fact that the mental disability certificate, which must be presented when receiving discounts, was first issued in 1995, compared to 1950 for the physical and 7 years for the mentally disabled.
A representative of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s Railway Bureau explained in an interview, “Fares are determined by railroad companies based on the Railway Business Act, and we are seeking cooperation and understanding for the discount. On the other hand, a spokesperson for JR East said, “It is necessary to address this issue as a social welfare policy, including discounts for the physically challenged,” arguing for the necessity of a public financial burden, which is not currently in place. As for discounts for the mentally disabled, he said, “It may lead to a burden on other passengers. There are no plans at this time.”