JR Tokai rapped over snub for disabled

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The Justice Ministry has told Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) that it should allow access to its stations by disabled people who use electric carts, officials said Thursday.

The Human Rights Bureau of the Justice Ministry and the Osaka Legal Affairs Bureau conducted a joint investigation after a complaint was filed in April with the Osaka Bureau by a cart user.

This week, the Osaka Legal Affairs Bureau called JR Tokai’s denial of cart access “unfair discrimination,” saying “JR Tokai does not have any particular difficulties” in accommodating the machines when compared with other railways that accept them.

In 2003, a Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry panel looking at access to public transportation for the cart-type wheelchair found that railway stations with at least one access route to the platform that the cart users can take on their own should accept the vehicles.

JR Tokai “had no logical excuse for refusing” cart access to its facilities, according to a senior official at the Human Rights Bureau.

A written warning was given to JR Tokai on Wednesday, stating the carrier should stop the practice immediately and accept the carts to the same extent as other railways.

Compared with electric wheelchairs, the carts, both three- and four-wheel versions, are typically heavier and have a larger turning radius, which makes them difficult to maneuver at many train stations, according to the transport ministry.

At present, 1,329 railway stations have cart access, out of 9,538 stations nationwide, including those run by JR firms, subway companies and private railways.

JR Tokai is one of three railways that denies access to the carts at all stations.

In a written statement, JR Tokai said it will examine the warning.