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July 2017
Barrier-free study report toward creating towns where everyone can easily move from one place to another

Uneven road surfaces, long slopes, one-centimeter-high gaps...

"I wanted to go to the bathroom but because of the uneven surface I couldn't go in a wheelchair."

"Decorative road surfaces look nice but aren't easy to walk on."
When we walk paying a little more attention than usual to our physical surroundings, we notice a surprisingly large number of movement and lifestyle barriers that hinder disabled people from moving from one place to another.

To enhance the safety barrier-free map that is friendly for everyone ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, we teamed up with staff members and volunteers in Tokyo's Chiyoda-ku and Shuzenji in Izu, to gather information for barrier-free sites.

Pre-training: Understanding what it means to eliminate mental barriers and understanding the points of the study

Have you ever experienced seeing a disabled person right in front of you, but you did not know what to say to them or did not know how to help them even though you wanted to?
Before the team conducted the barrier-free study, they attended a lecture on removing mental barriers by Shusaku Sugiuchi—a bronze medalist at the Athens Paralympics—which helped them understand how important it is to have compassion for people who are different from us, and to act to help them.

After the lecture, team members were divided into several groups and given instructions on how to enter the information they will gather into the system and the main points of the study to better understand the project.

Going into town: Wheelchair experience led to many discoveries

When the team went into town to gather information, they used wheelchairs during the survey to find physical barriers that are hard to spot when walking normally. When actually using wheelchairs, they realized how dangerous and scary it could be when some slopes they never noticed before drove the wheelchair in unexpected directions.

"My line-of-sight was low so I was worried whether drivers could see me. I also realized I had to work really hard if I wanted to keep pace with other people walking normally."

Slopes are especially difficult to spot on normal maps.

"If I am not careful on a downward slope, the wheelchair might speed up and it's scary. I pushed the wheelchair thinking about what I could do to make the person in the wheelchair comfortable."

These were some of the many things the team discovered during the study. They gathered information meticulously, including the angles of slopes, how many centimeters high the gaps were and whether roads were wide enough for wheelchairs to use.

Universal design map created by everyone

In this study, priority was given to gathering information on bathrooms, staircases, slopes and gaps. By gathering more information on gap-free routes for wheelchair users and tactile paving for visually impaired people, the map will incorporate information that better meets user needs. Sometimes, even bathrooms that claim to be barrier-free can be too small or inadequately equipped when we actually visit them. Our study aims to provide information that will allow everyone to have peace of mind when they go out by posting bathroom information with photos so that they can see the conditions inside the bathroom.

Many people from all over the world will be visiting Japan during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Some of them may feel anxious about moving from one place to another because of their advanced age, strollers or disabilities,
Through the universal design map, JAPAN WALK GUIDE, created by everyone, we hope to expand our activities for creating an inclusive society, where a little bit of compassion can make it easier for every member of society to step outside.