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Sightseeing venues and other tourism businesses are expanding preparations for tours that cater to people with physical disabilities and elderly people ahead of the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020.

“I was able to visit places I have wanted to see,” a woman in her 70s from Thailand said at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto late last year. The woman uses a wheelchair.

“There were few gravel paths or differences in level in the course, so it was helpful,” said a Japanese tour guide attending to the Thai woman.

Many of Japan’s well-known temples and shrines pose accessibility challenges for the physically impaired, including long stairs and steep slopes.

Kiyomizu Temple has introduced a tour course for wheelchair users on its website, enabling people with physical disabilities to enjoy a grand view of its famous wooden stage from the best location.

Websites for booking hotels and inns have recently added the word “barrier-free” to their search engines, said Satoko Suzuki of Recruit Lifestyle Co., which published a travel guidebook last October for wheelchair users and people with frail legs.

The guidebook includes information with photos on whether well-known landscapes can be seen from the height of a wheelchair and whether hotels and inns have handrails in their bathhouses, Suzuki said.

For more than 20 years, travel agency Club Tourism International Inc. has been offering small group tours for individuals with mobility problems. Each tour is led by an escort with a nursing license, and the number of participants continues to increase.

The average age of participants is around 75. “Because some participants say ‘This is my last tour,’ we can’t let them down,” a Club Tourism official said.

To increase tour opportunities for the elderly and people with physical disabilities, a nonprofit organization in Tokyo educates supporters who travel with them. Women in their 40s and 50s and male retirees in their 60s are willing to work as travel supporters, according to the NPO.

A large number of physically disabled athletes and spectators will visit Japan for the 2020 Paralympics, said the head of the group, Makiko Kubota.

“They may be able to expand their activities if supporters are readily available, even without facilities that will require much time and money for construction,” she said.

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