National / Social Issues

IPC officials press for greater hotel accessibility in Tokyo area for 2020 Paralympics

JIJI

With less than 1,000 days before the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, Japan is accelerating efforts to prepare lodging facilities to accommodate the athletes, spectators and others who will visit Japan for the event.

Working-level officials of the International Paralympic Committee visited Tokyo in May to hold talks with members of the organizing committee of the Tokyo Paralympics, and to check the progress on preparations for the quadrennial sporting event.

At the time, IPC officials said Tokyo lags behind other major international cities in terms of the availability of hotel rooms that are accessible to people with disabilities.

The officials found that hotel rooms in Tokyo have smaller spaces than those in other major cities abroad.

They also pointed out that there are fewer hotels in Tokyo that have bathtubs in shower rooms and offer ample space for wheelchair users.

The IPC urged the organizing committee of the Tokyo Games to encourage hotel operators to prepare more accessible rooms ahead of the 2020 event.

Located near Tokyo Station, Palace Hotel Tokyo has five barrier-free rooms among its 290 guest rooms.

With flat floor areas and bathrooms with grab rails, the accessible rooms offer a more practical environment for wheelchair users.

However, the number of such guest rooms in Tokyo is very limited at present.

One difficulty that must be overcome to increase the number of accessible hotel rooms with larger spaces is the cost of renovation and maintenance, sources said.

According to the organizing committee, Tokyo needs to prepare some 50 accessible rooms for IPC officials who will visit Japan for the 2020 Games.

To secure enough accessible rooms the committee is asking hotel operators in Tokyo to prepare, for example, retractable ramps aimed at helping wheelchair users to overcome differences in floor levels in guest rooms. Another request is for the installation of equipment such as grab rails in more guest rooms.

“We hope that such equipment will become a legacy of the Tokyo Games,” an official on the committee said.

As the host nation for the 2020 Games, the Japanese government has launched a field survey on hotel facilities accessible to wheelchair users for the first time ever.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to draw up guidelines to promote better understanding of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, and raise public awareness about such issues.

Visiting Japan in October, IPC President Andrew Parsons saw the 2020 Tokyo Games as an opportunity for improving its accessibility. Although Tokyo is an advanced metropolis, it is still possible to take a step forward for an inclusive society, he said.