National

Over half of guide dog users say Tokyo's preparations for 2020 Games not yet adequate, survey shows

by Masumi Koizumi

Staff Writer

More than half of guide dog users in Japan said Tokyo is not adequately prepared to welcome visitors from overseas who rely on guide dogs when it hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, a survey finds.

The largest segment of the respondents, 50.6 percent, chose “not really ready,” while 17.6 percent answered “not ready at all,” according to the survey by The Eye Mate Inc., a guide dog training organization. It showed 14.1 percent said Tokyo is “almost ready, but not fully.”

Takao Shioya, who heads the organization, noted that not many guide dog users abroad are expected to come to Tokyo for the games, but that it is important to establish an environment friendly for them in time.

Shioya stressed the importance of improving the situation for domestic guide dog users.

The survey also revealed persistent discrimination in Japan against visually impaired people accompanied by guide dogs despite a law banning discrimination having taken effect in 2016. For the survey 219 guide dog owners nationwide were contacted in the 10 months through February 2019, and 85 valid responses were obtained.

The survey, published on March 27, showed 52.9 percent of the respondents had experienced being treated unfairly due to being accompanied by the dogs, such as being denied entry to restaurants and other facilities. Sixty-three percent had reported likewise in a comparable 2018 survey.

Restaurants, including izakaya Japanese-style pubs and cafes, were the most common place to experience being denied access, which was mentioned by 80 percent this year compared with 78.7 percent in last year’s survey. Although the survey did not ask about the reason given for the denial, Shioya said it stemmed from a ” lack of understanding.”

“Some restaurants don’t want to accept such customers because they simply don’t know how, or because the dog may cause trouble (with other customers),” he added.

Lodging facilities and taxis were next in line, cited by 33.3 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively. Supermarkets and convenience stores were identified by 11.1 percent.

Many respondents expressed concerns that guide dog users visiting Tokyo from abroad for the Olympic events would find themselves in the same predicament. For users to come to the capital without anxiety, the respondents expressed in the survey’s free response section wishes for a society where entry would not be refused to people with guide dogs. Other popular requests included “developing toilets” where guide dogs can use and “fostering volunteers who will support the users.”

Asked how the respondents would prefer to watch the events, the largest ratio, 62.4 percent, cited “TV,” followed by 17.6 percent who answered “at the venues.”

The 2016 law aims to eliminate discrimination on grounds of disability, with the goal of realizing a society where people respect each other’s individuality. It prohibits the central and municipal governments as well as private businesses from discriminating against people because of their disability without giving good reason.

Regarding the extent to which this objective has been achieved, a total of 78.8 percent said “more efforts should be made.”