Japan Taking the Lead in "Inclusion by Design" in Air Travel

Expantion of Haneda, Tokyo International Airport.

Image via Wikipedia

With leadership, foresight, and a sense of justice like this in other countries would air travel improve for people with disabilities worldwide?

Following Andy Kennedy's argument in "Can the Airlines Survive the New Access Fines?"

would Delta Airlines have been fined $2.5 million US if the airport had used the simple good design - Universal Design - described here?

Even if one argues that serious distortions of business culture and fiduciary responsibility to shareholder reside in the upper management of Delta Airlines could such a culture sustain itself when "exclusion is excluded by design" like this?


By Takeharu Yasuda / Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan's airports have been rapidly improving their buildings and facilities based on the concept of "universal design" as a wide variety of people, such as the elderly, parents with baby strollers and people using wheelchairs, pass through airports.

Universal design refers to hardware and software considerations to enable anyone to safely and comfortably use public facilities.

Looking at the departure lobby of the international passengers terminal building of Tokyo's Haneda Airport, Prof. Yoshihiko Kawauchi of Toyo University said, "I believe the universal design of this airport is world class."

Kawauchi, who uses a wheelchair, was deputy chairman of a universal design consideration panel for the terminal building, which opened in October last year.

The most hotly debated issue in the panel's discussions was the design of doors for multifunction toilets.

In the terminal building, all restrooms are equipped with multifunction toilets intended mainly for people in wheelchairs, those with baby strollers, and those with artificial bladders.

Not only the interior fixtures but also the doors were designed for easy use.

People in wheelchairs with weak arm strength usually find automatic doors convenient.

But when such a person is accompanied by a helper, an automatic door can become troublesome. If the helper assists the disabled person in getting situated on the toilet and then politely steps away to provide some privacy, the door's sensors may think it is time to leave and open the door, possibly exposing the person on the toilet to the view of passersby.

For people who are visually impaired, the buttons to open and close the automatic doors can be difficult to locate.

Thus, the airport's universal design panel finally chose doors that open manually and are made of very lightweight material.

Elevators at the airport are equipped with emergency buttons for the hearing-impaired, because ordinary emergency buttons are useless for such people as the system only enables the user to talk with staff.

If a person presses the special emergency button for the hearing-impaired, an airport employee will come to the scene and communicate with the troubled user through written messages or sign language through the elevator's glass doors.

Also, the terminal building introduced the world's first non-sloping boarding bridges. The building also has toilets exclusively for assistance dogs.

The design of the building also took into consideration the convenience of nondisabled people.

The electronic flight information boards employ fonts that make it easier to distinguish 0 from O. The boards also display the content of announcements from speakers, thus are convenient for not only the hearing-impaired but also others who missed hearing the announcements.

There are also 85 "concierge" staff stationed at or near information counters. All of them speak English, and some also speak Korean and Chinese. They can accompany people in wheelchairs and communicate with sign language.

Guide maps for the visually impaired are available. The Braille maps, which fold in half, are useful to nondisabled people as well.

Nobuhisa Nakamura, senior manager of Tokyo International Air Terminal Corp., which manages buildings at Haneda Airport, said: "We'll reconvene the universal design panel, possibly in autumn this year. We'll examine tasks to further improve the facilities."

Centrair in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, which opened in February 2005, is said to be the nation's first airport to employ the concept of universal design in its buildings.

That airport's design was made more universal not only by engineering hardware improvements but also by considering opinions from disabled people and outside experts.

This approach was also taken in work on Haneda Airport and the international passengers terminal building of New Chitose Airport in Chitose, Hokkaido, which opened in March last year.

In July 2005, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry drafted an outline of policy for promoting universal design in which all kinds of people can comfortably live.

The ministry has encouraged construction and renovation of public transportation and facilities, including airports, based on the concept.

Makoto Nakazawa, president of Barrier Free Co., a Tokyo-based firm assisting companies and organizations in introducing the universal design concept, said: "Though Haneda Airport's level of universal design is textbook-perfect, it's too costly for ordinary companies and hotels to do the same.

"The level doesn't need to be perfect for everybody from the beginning. It's important to start on the parts that are possible to do now."

(Feb. 23, 2011)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Recent Entries

We've Made It! Universal Design Get's "Mom Approval" in the USA.
The originally stigmatized concept of Universal Design is now the "Wow Factor" - as young moms and silver-haired grandfathers catch…
Inclusion in Tourism has a New "Friend in High Places": Congratulations Rosangela Berman-Bieler
Ms. Rosangela Berman-Bieler was recently appointed as UNICEF's Senior Adviser on Children with Disabilities, in the Gender, Rights and Civic…
Una sociedad accesible: II Foro Internacional de Diseño Universal, celebrado en Málaga (Spanish)
Desde Solidaridad DigitalEl director de Accesibilidad Universal de Fundación ONCE, Jesús Hernández, pidió este viernes la colaboración de "todos" para crear…
Carnival 2011: Prefeitura do Rio vai Narrar Desfiles para Deficientes Visuais (Portuguese)
DA AGÊNCIA BRASIL:Os desfile das escolas de samba do Grupo Especial do Rio de Janeiro terão uma novidade este ano. Pela…
Out of Africa - some good news!
Piet Human is a dynamic experienced South African entrepreneur. His new innovative audio-visual tour guide has been years in the…
XVI World Deaf Congress in Durban
You may be planning to attend the World Deaf Congress and enjoy the sights of Durban, South Africa.   EARLY BIRD…
Egypt Works on Destination Marketing -- Grassroots Style
Although he is studying American Sign Language (ASL) just up the road from me here in the San Francisco By…
Taking to the Skies with Mobility Equipment: Behind the News with Scootaround
The news of DOT's $2.5 million fine against Delta Airlines posed a journalistic dilemma. On the one hand we knew…