Information Breaking Limitations for Accessible Travel in Japan

Information technology is arguably the most powerful tool we have at our fingertips, monumentally changing human society after the industrial revolution. It has been so influential that we literally named the current era of humanity The Information Age. Without computers and information technology the author of this article wouldn’t even be able to share these words around the world just minutes after they were written. It’s capable of bringing people together, illuminating issues, helping others in incredibly impactful ways, and so much more.

While not unique to the country, Japan has harnessed Information Technologies (IT) in amazing ways. Having grown from a devastated post-war country to a now modern-day economic powerhouse in only a few generations is a prime example of IT power. Today we see another example of how companies in Japan are using IT to solve issues together and possibly make the world a bit better for many people living with disabilities that require the use of a wheelchair.

Data collection, information sharing, and making changes based on information technologies are the core components being utilized to increase assistance and accessibility for users of wheelchairs. Early this year, various companies in Japan including All Nippon Airways (ANA), East Japan Railway Co., Kyoto-based taxi operator MK Co., and Tokyo Monorail Co. began collaborating on data sharing and collection from various customers who use wheelchairs. The culmination of which is to specifically make traveling more convenient and easier at airports, train stations, and other public transportation for wheelchair users.

This sharing of data allows these companies and others to network their IT so that customers may receive an almost seamless flow of assistance traveling from one location to another. A trial of this network used smartphones held by various participants to provide location and other pertinent information to various attendants/assistants along the customer’s route. For now, the trial route involved JR trains (train station attendants) in Tokyo, a flight from Haneda International Airport to Osaka International Airport (flight attendants), and finally travel by MK cabs (entry/exit assistant) in Kyoto, Osaka, and Hyogo prefectures. Usually, customers would have to communicate ahead on their own to each individual company, but this collaboration and app works to do that for you, and its results are a welcome site.

So far, the companies involved feel the trail has very much been a success, it has allowed these companies to respond more easily to needs of customers who use wheelchairs and add a bit of flexibility in cases of delay or other issues. A trial participant, Nahoko Horie, who is hesitant to travel due to the stresses that often come with traveling with a wheelchair, said while smiling after the trial, “I was very impressed with how smoothly I was able to move around,” displaying that this success is also very much the customers too. Juichi Hirasawa, executive vice president of ANA, has already expressed a great desire to expand this technology in Japan and add additional partners, such a move would only benefit those who need the help.

With this and other similar information technology growing in Japan, and the rest of the world, those of us at TabiFolk look forward to a day when traveling with a disability (in a wheelchair or not) can be almost as stress-free as those without a disability. What do you think about this technology? Would you like to use a non-intrusive app to make getting around on a trip easier? What would you like to see in such an app? Leave us a comment below!

By: Justin Schroth


“Wheelchair users in Japan get boost as mobility services spread.” The Japan Times, 

Published in Accessible Travel News, Travel


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