Friday, April 22, 2005

Accessing ramen

If you’re thinking about visiting Japan as a tourist with disabilities, this article makes it sound like you may face a considerably less accessible country than you may be used to in the US or Canada: “Only about 10 percent of the 8,500 hotels nationwide have rooms that can be used by disabled or elderly people. The figure falls to a scant 1 percent for the 60,000 ryokan inns … According to the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, 44.1 percent of rail, bus, air and sea transportation firms had installed ramps in their facilities by the end of March 2004. And only 21.2 percent of those had bathrooms equipped for disabled people.” But there is hope for the future. There is at least one company, Eagle Bus Co., based in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, who has made travel for people with disabilities a specialty of the firm. Eagle is aiming to create more tours for foreigners. One of the most difficult parts of arranging these tours? Accessible restaurants: "The tourists from Hong Kong want to eat ramen," Eagle Bus President Masaru Yajima said. "But it's almost impossible to find barrier-free noodle shops. Even city hotels have few barrier-free rooms." That’s interesting because often restaurants are some of the more accessible businesses in the U.S. it seems to me. Another reason for optimism is the existence of the Universally Designed Tourism Center. I couldn’t find a Web site for the center, but wouldn’t you know that Scott Rains has had a firsthand experience with the director.


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