World-class athletes are preparing for the upcoming 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo with approximately 4,400 athletes and thousands of spectators expected to attend the Games that will take place from 25 August thru 6 September 2019. As one of the primary goals of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is creating more inclusive societies across the world, there is a special focus on Tokyo and what is available to those with disabilities.
There have been many improvements in the type and amount of accommodations throughout Tokyo, but one of the major stumbling blocks is the fear that Tokyo will have problems moving large numbers of wheelchair users around the city during the 12-day event. In addition, there are some concerns about hotel rooms and public transit and their ability to accommodate wheelchair users in the host city.
Throughout Tokyo and Japan, hotel rooms are small, so using a mobility device like a wheelchair is difficult at best. In addition, some of the hotel bathrooms don’t have accessible showers or tubs. They lack grab bars, there are floor level differences and because rooms are small, more space is needed. So be sure to reserve well in advance and confirm wheelchair accessibility at the hotel you plan to stay from the curb to the room.
There have been plans to improve airport accessibility for both fans and athletes who require wheelchairs. To make airport bathrooms more accessible, the IPC has recommended that the city add improvements like voice guidance systems, light alert system for users who are deaf or have hearing loss, more consistent washroom sign icons and even adding Braille to signs.
Not surprisingly, they have also recommended making changes to accommodate service animals, including wider stalls, leash hooks, mats that give animals a place to relieve themselves and cans designed for animal waste disposal
Before the Special Olympics begin, the IPC is asking Tokyo to upgrade3,3,500 transit stations to make them more accessible. That means barrier-free equipment for wheelchair users, easier access restrooms, ramps and elevators, and other upgrades.
Trains are the main mode of transportation. While many trains are wheelchair accessible, many stations have stairs that preclude wheelchair users from gaining access. Buses are mostly wheelchair accessible and have ramps, but their schedules are unpredictable because of traffic.
Many taxis have ramps or lifts but are only available at a destination when scheduled. Phone numbers are posted at various locations to access a wheelchair accessible taxi.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is working hard to make Tokyo more accessible for athletes and disabled visitors. At both Olympic and Paralympic venues, many wheelchair vans will be used to help transport disabled visitors requiring accessible transportation.
Toyota has also unveiled a Human Support Robot designed to assist wheelchair users at the Olympics and Paralympics. The robots can carry food and other items, help viewers to their seats and provide requested event information.
Toyota also has made some minivan conversions available for those who require wheelchair accessible transportation around Tokyo. Many private companies are providing commercial wheelchair vans to help transport those with disabilities to and from the various venues in the city.