A “barrier-free mindset” is a government policy being implemented in preparation for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games. It goes beyond the mere removal of impediments to those with disabilities within Japan’s physical environs and creates an environment of true coexistence. The basis for this is the Act for Eliminating Discrimination Against People with Disabilities that went into effect in April 2016. The following description comes from the website of the Prime Minister and His Cabinet:
A “barrier-free mindset” means supporting one another and communicating to promote deeper understanding across the vast range of people’s differences in mind, body, and ways of thinking. (From the Ministerial Council on Universal Design 2020’s February 2017 decision on the Universal Design 2020 Action Plan). Individuals must continually make concrete efforts toward making that a reality. To bring about this barrier-free mindset, The Universal Design 2020 Action Plan holds that each person should bear in mind the following three points.
(1) Understand the “social model of disability”, which maintains that it is society’s duty to remove the social obstacles that limit disabled people.
(2) Thoroughly ensure that disabled people (and their families) are not discriminated against (through unfair discriminatory treatment as well as through failure to provide reasonable accommodation).
(3) Cultivate the ability to imagine burdens and pains that all people bear, and empathize with them, and nurture the ability to communicate with others whose conditions differ from one’s own.
Here, the phrase “social model of disability” refers to the belief that society should accommodate disabled people, rather than forcing them to adjust to society. Perhaps it is easier to imagine arranging the social environment so that left-handed people would not feel inconvenienced. To do that, “reasonable accommodation” must be extended as far as possible without becoming too much of a burden. Conversely, not providing reasonable accommodation and excluding disabled people by not putting forward any effort is considered to be discrimination.
We hope that travel companies, lodgings, and tourist facilities will take the three points above into consideration and provide appropriate services. Businesses will, of course, respond to the government’s points. However, if more and more people start to be concerned for those who need support as a matter of course, and freely ask them if they need help, then we will truly live in a world where people can coexist.
Bureau of Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020’s official information: “Towards 2020 －Building the Legacy－”
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