On September 27th 2013, the Cabinet Office of the Japanese Government, endorsed plans to improve facilities for people with disabilities (PWD). In preparation for the 2020 Paralympics, the government is set to improve arenas and facilities where Paralympic athletes can train. Training facilities will not have different floor levels. Restrooms will also be rid of barriers, while tiles with raised bumps are increased to better assist people who are visually impaired. However, facilities that will go through renovation depend on the decision of the Japan Paralympic Committee and particular sports associations.
There will also be an increase of facilities for PWDs so they can train safely and better. Meanwhile, coaches will be trained to better assist disabled athletes. Train stations and bus terminals will also go through renovations to guarantee easier access for disabled people by fiscal 2020.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government had previously stated that “it will raise the number of low-floor buses from the current rate of around 80 percent to 100 percent, and install elevators and restrooms for the disabled at all Tokyo train stations as opposed to 90 percent at present.”, according to the Mainichi News. Some such as Japanese Paralympian Masaaki Chiba, 51, a wheelchair user and track and field athlete are suspicious of such claims saying, “Mere infrastructure improvements are pointless.” He adds, “When I get in an elevator in Japan, people don’t make room for me unless I ask, and non-disabled people use the restrooms for the disabled.”
“Attitudes toward the disabled are behind the times in Japan. That is because there is not enough communication, and because disabled and non-disabled do not understand each other,” said. Chiba believes it is necessary to speak to young people now to raise awareness before visitors flock to Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympics and find themselves disappointed by anachronistic attitudes.
Chiba’s concerns appeared to be shared by the Chairman of the Japan GoalBall Association, Kazuo Kondo. Kondo hopes many people will watch goalball ( in which participants are vision impaired, either through natural or artificial means such as a eyemask) and the aim is to throw the ball into the opponents goal) and discover the sport’s appeal, and he also says that people watching the disabled compete in sports will lead to better understanding of them in general.
“That will lead to a society that is also more accommodating to the elderly and other socially vulnerable populations,” says Kondo.
I have no doubt that Tokyo 2020 will be impressive, and as I have stated elsewhere, Tokyo is far from the worst place in the world for disability access. My only concern is that their plans, are quite simply, not grand enough. Restrooms in every Tokyo train station is of course welcome, and will be costly. But where is the attempt to change the image of disability in Japan? It was the emphasis Lord Sebastian Coe placed on the London 2012 Paralympics that led to two million people buying tickets for it. Japan should use the resources of ‘Cool Japan’, whether it is AKB48, or Hello Kitty or other cultural ‘brands’ in order sell the idea of the Japanese Paralympics.
Still, it is early days, but I shall be watching Tokyo for the next seven years.
‘Wheelchair athlete calls for better attitudes toward disabled by 2020’ http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130914p2a00m0na009000c.html
Japanese government endorses plan to improve Paralympic facilities http://japandailypress.com/japanese-government-endorses-plan-to-improve-paralympic-facilities-0437165/