Article on wheelchair accessibility in Tokyo before the Olympics and Paralympics

  • Article on wheelchair accessibility in Tokyo before the Olympics and Paralympics

    Posted by Accessible Japan on November 4, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Just wanted to share an article by the Japan Times that we (and the cover image of @bookman!)  were featured in about preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

    What do you think?  Do you feel Tokyo will be ready?  Have you seen changes in other cities that hosted the Olympics?

    Lets start a discussion here!

    Accessible Japan replied 5 years, 6 months ago 6 Members · 12 Replies
  • 12 Replies
  • Kim

    November 5, 2018 at 4:47 am

    Great article! I will say that in our experience, the Japanese people were very kind and helpful to my husband (he was in an electric wheelchair). We felt them quietly watching, and they sprang into action if they perceived we had a need. One person even offered to carry him on his back! There is a long way to go in accessibility, but they did their best to accommodate us.

  • Accessible Japan

    November 5, 2018 at 10:50 am

    @wheeliewife What are your thoughts?  You have experience in both London and Tokyo, so I think you may have a unique perspective.

  • wilgo

    November 5, 2018 at 1:28 pm


    The article tells all of us the real situation of barrier-free here in Tokyo, and tells the issues I, a non wheelchair user, can’t see from my eyes.

    The following comment in the article indicates the reason behind the current situations in Japan.

    “One of the biggest changes that I hope these games will make in Japan is that, compared with other major cities around the world, you don’t see many people with an impairment. Hopefully the games can act as motivation for people with impairments to take to the streets and be seen.”

    It sounds like saying that  “people with an impairment have to be taken care in houses or facilities”.  Although anybody should be able to go out for shopping, sightseeing, entertaining and so on, the mentality of Japanese, especially one of aged people, have kept them inside.  Nowadays, younger generations have another thoughts, and get more active than before.  The games in 2020 make more impacts on Japanese, to become more accessible city.  All visitors to the game in 2020 may come across the difficluties in the city, but Japanese will be happy to help and assist our guests.


  • Accessible Japan

    November 5, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Yes, I think there are many people in the city and more each day. It is much more different than back when I first came in 2000.

  • Kelly

    November 6, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Such a great article! I love that scholars & activists are using the momentum of the Games to advocate for larger changes that need to happen for life to be better for all. We were in Japan for 6 months of 2017– my younger son uses a wheelchair so we were extra aware of accessibility issues. The buzz from the Games is great and I believe that visibility and knowledge are part of change. Money and infrastructure changes also help.

    While Tokyo is so much more accessible than many other big cities (New York!) it is not without its issues which the article makes very clear. It only took facing a set stairs once for us to have to completely reroute our trip–I can only imagine how that must feel if that is your daily commute or if you have minimal language skills.

    While I know that just hosting the Games does not lead to a host city becoming a completely barrier-free utopias. I am so hopeful that the visibility,  positive publicity, and attention will result in some meaningful changes that will lead to lasting changes in both the built environment and in people’s attitudes towards disability.

  • Accessible Japan

    November 6, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    Excellent point.  Even if it isn’t perfect, having people with disabilities become more active and visible goes a long way to building a lasting legacy.

  • Jacinta

    November 11, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I agree with an earlier commentor, people seemed ready to help all the time. We were amazed.  However the whole time we kept saying how are they going to do 2020.  Everyday we saw something that would make us ask that question.

    We didn’t notice issues with being stuck in a line up for the elevator, however we tried to time our trips to steer clear of the what we thought was the peak hour of travel. We did find  the elevators to be much smaller than anything we had seen in Australia.   So if you were coming from a country where you could expect a big elevator where 2 to 3 chairs might fit in and you suddently find yourself in a lift only big enough for 1  you probably will become frustrated by the wait time.

    We also went to the Makuhari Messe venue, which I think will be an event venue. To get to there from the train station you need to go up on an elevated foot path, and we needed to catch multiple elevators to get to different levels of this footpath to try and get access to the event. On our return at the end of the day the elevator to get down from the elevated foot path was Out of Order It was with luck that there was a nearby hotel that appeared to have an entrance at the elevated level so we investigated and were able to get back to street level via that.  I think they will need to have marshalls at, what I believe is, critical points in the accessible  path.


  • Jacinta

    November 11, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    One major thing that may need to be addressed prior to the Games is the lack of Eagle Hoist to assist passengers out of plane seats and into aisle wheelchair at Narita Airport.  The manual lifting was quite a shock, and far from ideal. The staff were obviously very professional and there was no incident.  however it would be better to minimise manual lifting especially in such a confined space where they have to lift you higher over the arm rests etc

  • Josh Grisdale

    November 11, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    Never heard of an Eagle Lift, what is it?

  • Accessible Japan

    November 12, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    @Jacinta_S – Excellent points!  Thank you so much for the feedback.  If I have the opportunity to meet with people in charge I will try to bring these things up.  Especially the Eagle Lift – the airport is everyone’s first impression!

    Do you know if it is the airport or airline which is responsible for such a lift?

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