Travelling With a Physical Disability in Japan

I’m Yuriko Oda and my disease is
distal myopathy My name is Josh Grisdale
and I’m from Canada, near Toronto originally, and I’ve lived in
Japan for about eight years now The door on the opposite side
you entered will open What should I buy? The door will close Sorry, excuse me If you do any research on Japan, you know that they have an excellent
transportation system If you’ve traveled in it,
you may have also noticed they have many features to accommodate
people with physical disabilities So here’s the lowdown on how it works It’s half price for wheelchair users, half There are some stations now that have a
raised area for people in wheelchairs so that they can drive right
on the train themselves But of course, you know, if the
destination they are going to doesn’t have that kind of adaptation
then it’s difficult to use So while there are some lines that have
that, most of the lines, they just have somebody who is a staff
member who will help you get on the train So when you buy you’re ticket you go to
the staff member waiting at the ticket gate and you tell them where it is you
would like to go Can I get a slope please?
I’m going to station… I already have a stamp A slope, right. Please go upstairs
and is the last car OK? Ok, I see Yuriko was able to ask for a slope and
quickly go on her way with her husband But some stations have different
procedures, as explained by Josh They’ll usually ask you to wait a minute
by the area And then the other staff member will come Thank you for waiting, you’re going to
Shinbashi station, right? Please come this way And they’ll have a portable ramp with them And they’ll take you to the place in the
train, maybe where there is an accessible area to sit in a wheelchair And they’ll put the ramp out and help you
get on the train Travelling through the train is not
something Yuriko usually does Could you open the door? Oh, yes! But, she wanted to show the special
wheelchair section in the train, so off we went Normally, I use here, special space
for wheelchair users It’s very good, practical, because it’s so
dangerous, I hit the people Ok, sorry Pardon me And then when you get to your destination
or maybe a transfer point there’ll be somebody waiting there for you They know exactly what train you are on,
where you are And they’ll put a ramp down for you
and they’ll help you either get out the station or get on to your next train So it’s a great system I think Thanks Thank you very much Road condition is fabulous in Japan But, in other countries, so bumpy Bumpy, yeah. So buses are also quite accessible They have these buses called non-step But what happens is you just sort of go to
the bus loading area And you sort of indicate to the driver
that you’d like to get on And then the driver will sort of try to
maneuver the bus into a good position And then he’ll get out and unlock a ramp
from a special door inside the bus And lay the ramp down for you to get on Inside the bus there’s two seats that fold
up to make way for people with wheelchairs And they can sit in that area And then you just tell the bus driver
where it is you’d like to get off And then he’ll stop again for you
and let you out there Now, it’s not as good as the train and in
the past, actually, the bus drivers weren’t very well trained and sometimes they would maybe not,
it’s extra work for them so they wouldn’t necessarily want to help people sometimes But there’s been a lot more training put
into making sure that doesn’t happen and there’s also new laws coming into
effect recently to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities so I think that’s also helping to make
things easier to get around as well Ah, usually I use our car, by car, but another prefecture, like Fukushima or
Osaka, I use public transportation My husband carry me to seat, to the car
seat and fold, folds my electric wheelchair and put the trunk, my wheelchair There are accessible taxis that have lifts
in the back of them as well We have to request before one or two days And now they are expensive… Well, no more than a regular taxi but regular taxis in Japan can be
quite expensive Very kind taxi company is same
price as regular taxi But the special vehicle taxi is
very expensive to get it So, normally we have to pay more I asked Yuriko and Josh if they planned
their commutes to avoid busy travel times And their answers, well,
they were quite different I try to plan, not traffic jam, not busy Because it’s very dangerous
for wheelchair users and not only for wheelchair users, and elderly people, and mothers with strollers
it’s very, very dangerous Japanese traffic jam is very crowded I personally don’t necessarily put that
into, take that into consideration whether it’s going to be crowded or not because, you know, I’ve got my schedule
I’d like to keep and my freedom as well So, even if it’s going to be rush hour, then I’ll still go on the train
if that’s what’s needed It can sometimes, obviously be a
little bit difficult to get on, and there’s been a couple times where it’s
just been impossible to get on because of the crowding and I’ve had to wait one
or two trains extra But because there’s a space available for
people in wheelchairs People are generally quite considerate and
will move out of the way even though it’s rush hour So it’s obviously not the ideal time, but
um, if you got to go somewhere it shouldn’t stop you I don’t think yeah Because of the space created by my
wheelchair, and the crowding from behind, sometimes people end up
leaning over top of me So it’s been some awkward moments where
people are quite close, I’ve had sweat drip on me or something
like that from somebody else, but you know, it makes a good story,
so yeah I understand where both Yuriko
and Josh are coming from If you need to travel somewhere
by a certain time, like for work, then go about your business,
don’t let your disability stop you But, if you’re not pressed for time, you’ll
be more comfortable, whether you’re disabled or not,
avoiding the hectic, rush hour times So tenji blocks, they are braille blocks, and they are actually designed by
somebody in Japan back in the 1960’s for his
friend who couldn’t see What they are, is they’re sort of a clue
for people with visual impairments so that they can feel with their feet
or their cane which direction the street is going As well, if their are any points of
concern or points of warning So they are generally stripes if it’s a go
ahead and at maybe corners, or places where they need to take warning
there’ll be little dots instead, so they’ll also be at the edge of
train tracks as well, so people know not to… if they go any further, they’ll fall onto
the tracks kind of thing There sort of a double-edged sword for
people with wheelchairs because they can be a little bit
uncomfortable to drive over because of the bumps and stuff But at the same time, it’s also a good
clue to find the accessible path So maybe if you’re in some sort
of shopping area, and you want to know where the elevator is You’re probably on track if you can follow
those tracks, because they will generally lead to the elevator, or an
accessible exit, or something like that, so they have their own unique clues
as well for people in wheelchairs Japanese bathrooms for wheelchair users is
the most convenient in the world So I love it When I go back to Japan, Tokyo, I’m very relieved
to use Japanese bathrooms So in addition to the famous washlets and
stuff that clean your behind for you one other great thing about toilets in
Japan is for people with disabilities they have a thing called the daredemo
toilet, sorry, everybody’s toilet Third floor there’s a colostomy facility On the ninth floor…
there’s no colostomy facility So many assistive devices in bathrooms
for wheelchair users This bathroom is very large, large, is ok? Yeah, large is good! And there are grip, special grip Ok Yes, and back And very accessible for wheelchair users Sitting here, wash hands, washing hands So it’s easier to wash your hands? Yeah, I think so Emergency cord Yeah Ah, depending on where it is, it may also
have the changing bed Or something for cleaning colostomy bags
and stuff like that as well We can turn around in my wheelchair Hi again! The Japanese donatademo toilets
looked very useful, but I didn’t truly understand
their significance until it was contrasted against
bathrooms in the U.S. For example, in U.S., there are bathroom
space for wheelchair users, but it’s separated in men and women,
and inside So for me it’s difficult to go
inside with my husband but in Japan, there are special bathrooms
for wheelchair users, so we can go inside, together And so instead of, you know, the women’s
toilet and the men’s toilet, there’s usually one more toilet
in between those two I know in Canada, they would usually
have an accessible stall at the back of the toilet, which is maybe
often quite narrow and difficult to use So these are, pretty much, everywhere
in Japan, which is just incredible Even if you go to a park, they’ll have a
separate washroom for people with disabilities in the middle
of some residential area So I think that’s one of the big things
where Japan is definitely leading Japanese toilets are awesome! They use the term barrier free
to mean accessibility But so if you ever look for anything
online you need to look for something universal design or barrier free So it generally incorporates things,
mostly physical adaptations, so slopes and elevators and
wider doors and everything like that If there are 3,000 daily passengers,
station has to install an elevator In hotels it may mean that the bathroom is
bigger and that there’s a shower chair available and for tourists attractions, there’d
be maybe an alternate route or some sort of adaptation made to it For example Asakusa,
the temple Sensoji in Asakusa, they’ve got an elevator outside
of the temple now and they’ve made it look like
it’s part of the temple So they’ve adapted it in that
way to make it barrier free Ah, first of all, I would say go for it, it’s maybe scary because there’s
not enough information It’s sort of a newer tourist destination
and a lot of people aren’t thinking about people going with disabilities, so they don’t put that
kind of information on But it’s actually much easier than I
thought it was going to be as well I asked if not knowing Japanese
would cause issues I wouldn’t say it effects them too
much more than an average tourist other than in some specific areas
perhaps with, because the fact that you can’t just get
on a regular, a train by yourself You would need to interact with the staff
at the station People are obviously, because of the
Olympics coming up, are putting a very big effort
into learning English And because also there’s a ton of
new foreign tourists coming lately So people are eager to try out
their English So that could be a little bit
of a challenge But generally if you remember the phrase,
“I would like to go here, please let me use the ramp” then that should be, I think, fine After that it would be probably negotiating
with hotels as to what your needs may be Sometimes they don’t have the same type of facilities that they would have
in North American accessible hotels and if you have specific needs then you might
need to make sure they are met before you make the decision I’ve read the accounts of disabled people
who have said they feel like an outsider because they have a disability I’ve also read many accounts of non-Japanese
in Japan who have felt like outsiders So, I asked Josh, what does it feel like
to be a double outsider? Because in Japan he’s
both foreign and disabled In some ways I’m used to being an outsider So because of my disability, and you know,
no matter what country you go in kids especially, you know, they’ll look,
you know, what’s going on kind of thing And, so, sometimes I kind of laugh when
people who are foreigners coming to Japan and they say, “Everybody is looking at me
and I feel so awkward.” And I was like well that’s always
like that wherever I go So, I never necessarily felt any extra
eyes on me in Japan, or anything like that And, but in some ways it’s also,
in the opposite way I feel less like a disabled person here,
because of… I’m often, it’s more my foreignness
that sticks out than my disability So it’s almost as if my disability
sort of blends, sort of goes away into the background
in some situations So, yeah, I mean, it’s…. in some ways I’m double sticking out,
but at the same time you know, I’m no more sticking out than
any other foreigner in a way, so… Josh has actually created a site to help English speaking disabled people
navigate Japan Um, well I have a full time job, but as a
hobby I like to just sort of share about accessibility in Japan
through my website Right now it’s a lot of, sort of, general
information, for example on transportation, getting around, and some helpful
phrases for people with disabilities As well as I’m trying to go to different
sites around Tokyo and Kyoto as well and just sort of So people would say I want to go there but
what it’s like in a wheelchair? So I look at it from that perspective
and sort of tell people about that As well as I have some hotel listings for
places that have accessible rooms as well, so… Yuriko goes by the name of Wheelchair
Walker and makes excellent videos about travelling Japan, and the world,
in a wheelchair Please watch the Wheelchair Walker There are some videos with English subtitles I want to inform about accessibility
in Japan And I didn’t know how to get
super express shinkansen Or board airplane Or mandarin picking Or many things I couldn’t enjoy my life, but information
can help us I really want to introduce about
accessibility in Japan If I do, I will be able to see disabled
people in Japan from foreign countries I would say, I would encourage people
to not think of it as impossible and it may take a bit of extra work to
figure if they can come here or not But, if they want to access my website
and send me a message on that then I can try my best anyways to find out
things that I don’t know about Or assure them that yeah
there’s no problem, so… Don’t give up, come on to Japan,
we’re waiting for you! Thank you very much! I wanted to give a special shout out to
Yuriko and Josh for giving me a peak into their lives They were so helpful in answering
questions, letting me film them, and even giving me some additional footage Also a special thank you to Agatha,
who helped to translate Now there’s a part two, which will talk
about living with a disability in Japan So we’ll talk about things like
living independently, government assistance, and getting helpers This is video is part of a series of
social documentaries about Japan If you’d like to support them, I’ve set up
a Patreon page where you can do so Other topics I’ll be exploring are
homelessness, working, housing, schools, just to name a few As always, thank you so much for watching
and I’ll catch you on the flip side!


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