• Kyodo


A nonprofit organization of medical and nursing care workers has launched a certification exam for people who assist the elderly and physically disabled during their travels.

The exam was devised by the Japan Travel Volunteer Network in Tokyo to help such people better enjoy trips. It is designed to have caretakers acquire necessary skills such as keeping their eye level in line with a wheelchair-bound person while conversing with them.

Applicants for the certification answer 100 true or false questions and are asked to write on three themes in an hourlong exam.

A total of 51 people took the exam in May and November last year — and 34 of them passed it.

Masako Osodo, 64, representative of the JTVN, began arranging caretaker-assisted tours for the aged and people with disabilities some 20 years ago, utilizing her experience of running a travel agency in the past. While taking care of her 92-year-old mother at her home in Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture, she has continued efforts to introduce caretakers to the elderly.

Elderly people often give up going on trips if there is no one to look after them so “I would like to increase the number of people who can enjoy traveling with them,” Osodo said.

“In the future, I would like to nurture people who can accompany aged people when they visit their former homes or ancestors’ graves.”

Before an exam, the JTVN holds classes for applicants based on actual cases. In one class, for example, a question was raised over what to do when a tour group member in a wheelchair arrives at an airport without shoes.

Osodo advised participants in the class to address such situations with a flexible attitude, such as helping the traveler put on more than one pair of socks or wrapping the person’s feet in towels or pieces of newspaper.

On Nov. 24, the JTVN conducted a field training program in the busy Ameyayokocho shopping district and Asakusa, a popular tourist site near Sensoji Temple, both in Taito Ward, Tokyo, as an extension of the second exam held the previous day.

The program was attended by eight men and women in their 50s and 60s who either took the exam or passed the first test but wanted to learn more about the skills needed to be a travel guide for physically disabled people.

Using wheelchairs, the program helped the participants learn that a wheelchair-bound person feels safer on a downward slope when the chair is pulled by a caretaker backward.

Another lesson they were able to experience was how frightening it can be in a crowded area if the chair sits low.

Chizuko Aoki, a 60-year-old home-visit care worker who passed the first exam and participated in the training program in November, said she usually accompanies clients on shopping and other errands near their homes.

Thanks to the program, “I learned what I should do at places we visit for the first time,” she said.

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