“Japan is a great place for accessibility,” says Josh Grisdale who has made Japan his home for almost a decade. Josh has cerebral palsy and has used a power wheelchair since the age of three. He runs a website called Accessible Japan, and has seen Japan evolve from a country with very little accessibility to one that has become wheelchair-friendly.
Japan is a great place for wheelchair users to explore:
Tourist Attractions: Japan has a lot of cultural sites that attract tourists, and in order to accommodate wheelchair users, many sites have been made accessible, but in a not-so-obvious way. Josh explains that accessible entrances are often created to blend in with the aesthetics of the structures. “This may mean entering via a hidden side entrance,” he says. “But more often than not it will come in the form of a ramp made of aged wood or an elevator designed to look like a temple building.” So if you can’t immediately see an accessible entrance, be sure to ask, as there might be one hiding in plain sight.
Public Transportation: Here’s Josh’s insider information on navigating the sprawling public transit system of Japan’s capital city, Tokyo: “it’s actually easier if you have a disability…simply tell the staff member at the ticket gate where you want to go and then wait while they make arrangements.” You’ll be helped onto the train by an attendant who will provide a portable ramp (or in some newer stations, the platforms have no-step access to the train making a ramp unnecessary). When you reach your destination, an attendant will be waiting to assist with getting off the train.
Restrooms: Unlike many public restrooms that have a larger stall to accommodate wheelchair users, Japan has readily available “multipurpose toilets” that are separate from regular restroom facilities. “They are designed not just for people with disabilities, but also for seniors and mothers with young children,” Josh shares. “They’re equipped with handrails, diaper changing board, baby chair, sinks for cleaning ostmate bags, as well as emergency call buttons.” Here’s another tip: consider using the Check a Toilet app when you need to find a pit stop.
“Come visit Japan,” Josh says. “It’s easier than you think.”
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