Accessibility in Japan

24 Apr

“Accessibility” is a word that tells how easy a city is for handicapped people to go about their daily lives.

It’s not so easy for blind people, deaf people and those in wheelchairs to do the things that people who aren’t handicapped take for granted.

In your city…

how do people in wheelchairs manage all the staircases and curbs?

How do they get on and off the trains?

How do blind people use the vending machines?

How do they know how much a ticket costs? Or if a canned drink is cola or alcohol?

How can they tell the difference between the bottle of shampoo and conditioner?

How can blind people tell the difference between the denominations of monetary currency?

How do deaf people know when their station is coming up when they’re riding a train and can’t hear the announcements?

In Tokyo, there are now elevators in nearly every train station to help those in wheelchairs.

The train station staff have portable ramps to help the wheelchair go in and out of the trains.

And there is 点字 (Braille) all over Japan.

The sidewalks in Japan have Braille…

The beer cans in Japan have Braille (that says 「お酒」 (“alcohol”))…

The elevators in Japan have Braille.

And the train stations in Japan have Braille all over. For example, the signs have Braille…

And the handrails in the train stations have Braille that tell where the staircase leads to (the platform, or the exit, etc)…

This handrail says that the stairs lead to the 「改札口」 ("ticket gates").

Just like the sidewalks in Japan, the train stations have Braille on the floor and platforms…

Shampoo bottles in Japan have Braille to help blind people tell which bottle in the shower is shampoo and which conditioner…

The shampoo bottle has the Braille, the conditioner doesn't.

Even Japanese money has Braille on the different bills (and the bills are also varying sizes depending on denomination too).

And then there’s the electronic sign boards that are now on almost every train in Japan. They tell the name of the upcoming station. It helps the hearing impaired who can’t hear the conductor’s announcements.

What examples of  “accessibility” can be found in your city?

Advertisements

18 Responses to “Accessibility in Japan”

  1. Anonymous September 27, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Hello, I’m have polio and I’m thinking about moving to Tokyo for a 1 year working holiday. I have trouble walking distances say 1-3 blocks. My muscles becomes weak after 2 blocks. Do you have any suggestions, websites, or organizations that I can look up for assistance. Ie. The nearest bus station, nearest elevator etc. Your help is much appreciated.
    Thank you!

    Like

    • tokyo5 September 28, 2010 at 1:09 am #

      There are some website…but the most helpful ones are in Japanese.
      There are phone numbers for free “foreigner assistance services” that could help you. Also, you could call Japan Railways to get information about the train and nearest stations. I think they may be able to help with bus stop info too.

      I think it’d be easier to give you the phone numbers via email, if you’d like them.
      Why don’t you use my Contact Page and then I can email you?

      Like

  2. Tom Sewell September 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    I’ve been delving into a manga series about a high school in Japan for several years, and the series has an important character who is confined to a wheelchair. Like many series quite a lot of background has been worked out, including architectural plans for the school building, a high-rise with a central air shaft. The public toilets are all installed in rooms on one side of the fictional building, the side opposite the main entrance, and never on the same level as any of the classrooms or offices. This feat of solid geometry is achieved by setting the toilet floors exactly halfway between the normal floors, a half-flight of stairs up or down. The elevator opens only on the side opposite the toilets, onto floors which are a half-level and a half-flight of stairs from access to any public toilet.

    This seems incredibly stupid to me. It could all be to make sure the girl in the wheelchair has to wait alone while her brother uses the men’s room far enough away so her brother won’t realize she’s leaving. But the architectural plan is so very detailed otherwise and makes sense except for handicapped access. I think it might be based on a school the author attended. Do you know about any buildings in Japan set up like this?

    Like

    • tokyo5 September 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

      Sorry. I’m not sure what you’re asking me exactly. And I don’t understand what is stupid.

      But many public buildings (shopping centers, etc) in Japan have the restroom on the flight between floor levels. Schools aren’t usually set up like that though.

      Like

  3. strider May 2, 2010 at 4:07 am #

    I can say that we see a lot of that accessibility thing in Toronto. My wife is disabled, so getting into private businesses like stores or restaurants are a bigger problem.

    But Braille sidewalks? I have to humbly admit that we haven’t advanced that far.

    Like

    • tokyo5 May 2, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

      Not only Braille sidewalks…but money, beer cans, shampoo bottles, train station signs and handrails too.
      I don’t think Canada or America have those either.

      Like

  4. Chris April 27, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    I am endlessly annoyed by one accessibility issue that impacts me regularly. Now I’m perfectly able and have no problems getting around. I ride my bike just about everywhere, and that’s where the problem comes in.

    On the street where I live, which is a straight shot to the nearest grocery store (Wal-Mart), there is a lot of traffic and no bike lines. I therefore ride on the sidewalks, which is legal under those circumstances.

    However the sidewalks are also where homeowners along the street put out their recycling and garbage cans. This means that sometimes the sidewalk is so taken-up by these objects I actually gave to get off my bike and move them to get through. I can only imagine how horrible this would be for someone in a wheelchair to navigate.

    Even worse is a corner where there’s a fire hydrant that takes up most of the sidewalk. There’s a wall right across from it. It leaves less than two feet of clearance for me to bike through, which, again, has to suck for anyone in a wheelchair.

    Then there’s the large irrigation square in the middle of the sidewalk with no reflectors on it. Before I got lights on my bike I lived in fear of crashing into it when I was biking at night.

    But enough complaining! 🙂

    Like

    • tokyo5 April 27, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

      I guess in America you must be in the minority riding a bicycle.

      Bicycles are popular in Japan (and other Asian countries).

      I ride my bike to the train station in densely populated Tokyo…but I’m used to it now–I can zip around like everyone does here.

      Like

  5. bartman905 April 25, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Another excellent post – I didn’t realize that Japan had Braille all over the place, wow.

    Also in Japan, there is the chirping sound in crosswalks to help blind people to know when it is safe to cross the street.

    Like

    • tokyo5 April 25, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

      >Another excellent post

      Thank you.

      >Also in Japan, there is the chirping sound in crosswalks to help blind people to know when it is safe to cross the street.

      Oh, that’s right. I almost forgot about that.
      Thanks.

      Did you know that different cities have different sounds. And also, at most intersections two different sounds are used…one for the north-south crossing and the other for the east-west direction.

      Like

  6. David April 25, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    Unfortunately there are still plenty of stations around Tokyo that are difficult to access in a wheelchair, or with a child in a pram. Kawasaki, for example, does not have any elevators to the platforms and the escalators only run in one direction.

    That is not Braille on the sidewalks and in the stations, or on the shampoo bottle. Braille is a system of writing, while in those cases they are just bumps to guide the blind person – they don’t actually say anything.

    Like

    • tokyo5 April 25, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

      >Unfortunately there are still plenty of stations around Tokyo that are difficult to access in a wheelchair, or with a child in a pram.

      Yes, that’s true. But all of the stations that have staircases are getting elevators and escalators.

      And every station is getting the safety barriers on the platforms.

      There are a lot of stations though, so it takes time.

      And, by “pram” you mean “baby stroller”, right?
      Do you have a baby?
      When my kids were babies, there were no elevators or escalators in any stations at all here…so it’s much easier now.

      >the escalators only run in one direction.

      Actually, there are some stations that have escalators only going in one direction.
      The escalators aren’t actually meant for “able-bodied” people (although everyone is certainly allowed to use them), but they’re for people in wheelchairs.
      You might notice that there are always three steps on them that are painted blue…those steps can be hooked together to make one large step to hold a wheelchair…and the station staff can reverse the direction of the escalator to allow a handicapped passenger to go the other way.

      >That is not Braille…don’t actually say anything.

      Actually, I know the guide bumps on the ground and on shampoo bottles aren’t technically “Braille”…but it serves the same purpose and I can’t think of a better term to describe them.

      So, I call them Braille.

      Like

      • David April 26, 2010 at 10:42 am #

        Yes, I have 2 sons. One is 2 years old, and the other is 1 month old.

        I know about the escalators with the special steps for wheelchairs. My wife has used them a couple of times when she was out alone with the pram (British English :)) but it’s often not convenient to ask the staff to do it, specially when it’s busy.

        Like

      • tokyo5 April 27, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

        >it’s often not convenient to ask the staff to do it, specially when it’s busy.

        When we used a baby stroller, there were no elevators or escalators here. I had to carry the thing up and down the stairs.

        If your wife is alone with a baby stroller at a train station that doesn’t have an elevator…she can ask an attendant to help her carry it up (or down) the stairs.

        >pram (British English)

        In Japan, they’re called “baby car”. 😉

        Like

      • Alice November 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

        i didn’t know that those black or yellow bumps on the platforms of train are for guiding the visually impaired. Do you know what you call those scooter-like vehicle that the physically disabled or elderly ride on as transportation to go shopping or anywhere?

        Like

      • tokyo5 November 18, 2011 at 1:02 am #

        >i didn’t know that those black or yellow bumps on the platforms of train are for guiding the visually impaired.

        Not only train stations, but they’re all over Japan on sidewalks.
        I’m glad you could learn something from my blog! 🙂

        >Do you know what you call those scooter-like vehicle that the physically disabled or elderly ride on as transportation to go shopping or anywhere?

        Do you mean the electric scooters, not a wheelchair?
        That looks like this:

        In Japanese, those are called 「シニアカー」 (“Senior car”).

        Like

  7. thenakedlistener April 25, 2010 at 5:00 am #

    Hong Kong calling. This place called Hong Kong, it’s also called the City of Stairs. Enough said, really.

    Like

    • tokyo5 April 25, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

      When I first came to Japan, there were no elevators or escalators at any train stations…not even the major ones.

      Tokyo has changed a lot in the past twenty years.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: