Barrier Free Disability Japan

Why is Japan Seemingly Obsessed with “Barrier-Free Minds”?

“Barrier-free minds” is a phrase that various parts of the Japanese government uses often in its various campaigns to raise awareness of disability issues; and of course, raising awareness of the needs of people with disabilities within the non-disabled population of Japan is a positive thing. However sometimes the desire of the Japanese government to talk about “barrier-free minds”, seems to replace any talk or action about developing ‘barrier-free spaces’. It is all very well and good to talk about “barrier-free minds”, but sometimes, people with disabilities need accessible physical spaces, ultimately no ‘positive attitude’ will turn that staircase into an elevator.

By Barrier Free Japan

November 29 2022

JAPANOn November 25th Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has established appropriate facilities and equipment such as barrier-free toilets, parking facilities for wheelchair users, elevators in passenger facilities, and priority seats in vehicles so that those who “truly need them” can use them when they need them. The Ministry states that it will carry out a campaign to promote the use of these facilities and promote “barrier-free minds.”

“Barrier-free minds” is a phrase that various parts of the Japanese government uses often in its campaigns to raise awareness of disability issues; and of course, raising awareness of the needs of people with disabilities within the non-disabled population of Japan is a positive thing. However sometimes the desire of the Japanese government to talk about “barrier-free minds”, seems to replace any talk or action about developing ‘barrier-free spaces’. It is all very well and good to talk about “barrier-free minds”, but sometimes, people with disabilities need accessible physical spaces, ultimately no ‘positive attitude’ will turn that staircase into an elevator.

The ubiquity of the phrase “barrier-free minds” in Japanese politics over “barrier-free spaces” is, at the very interesting. In 2016 for example, Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike whilst talking about the coming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games stated:

“Barrier-free facilities are by all means important, but I believe that a barrier-free mind is equally vital.”

Also, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s website since October 2021, when, coincidentally because of the COVID pandemic, few foreign tourists could visit Japan, reports that it has a “Barrier-free mind certification program for tourist facilities”:

“Tokyo City i has been certified under the “Barrier-free mind certification program for tourist facilities” by the Japan Tourism Agency.
We will strive to support safer and more comfortable travel in Japan for all, and to continue to provide information on barrier-free travel.”

What the “Barrier-free mind certification program” is exactly, is not made clear by the website and it is difficult not to conclude that the use of the term “Barrier-free mind”, when it comes to tourism is little more than a slogan, after all, if it were more than that, if ‘Japan Inc’ was truly committed to making Japan ‘Barrier Free’ wouldn’t there be more details? Why is the phrase “Barrier-free minds” almost always used, but there is rarely any mention of ‘Barrier-free spaces’, physical environments where people with disabilities can live?

1 comment on “Why is Japan Seemingly Obsessed with “Barrier-Free Minds”?

  1. Pingback: Japan’s Barrier Free Minds - Disability Media Wire

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