Local Initiatives

Barrier-free design is the key to regional revitalization: Host towns gather for a summit in Iizuka in preparation for the Tokyo Paralympics

The Sankei Shimbun
The summit where local government staff discussed efforts for an inclusive society

Masakazu Nakamura, Sankei Shimbun Staff Writer

The heads of 30 local governments, involved in efforts to use next summer’s Tokyo Paralympics as an opportunity to create communities where everyone can live easily, met at the Inclusive Society Host Town Summit held in Iizuka City, Fukuoka on October 20. Introducing pioneering examples from around the country, the participants exchanged views about topics such as how barrier-free design can lead to increased tourism.

The summit came about due to a suggestion by Iizuka. Since 1985, the International Wheelchair Tennis Championships have been held in Iizuka. With local volunteers helping run the competition, the “Iizuka Method” of having the whole community welcome athletes has received international praise.

Ms. Seiko Hashimoto, Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, gave the opening speech at the summit as a guest speaker, in which she said, “Regional revitalization is not possibly without creating a barrier-free society. With the Paralympics, we will build a wonderful, sustainable legacy.”

Paralympic swimming gold medalist Mr. Junichi Kawai, a speaker at the summit, commented, “It is important to make the effort to create a society where people can live without feeling like they have a disability. The Tokyo Paralympics will provide an opportunity to show the world the importance of this message.”

At a panel discussion on “universal tourism (UT),” aiming to make trips which seniors and people with disabilities can also enjoy, Mr. Hiroyuki Seki, UT Promotion Manager at JTB, a major travel agency, noted, “Cities that are welcoming to visitors are also cities that are easy to live in. Being considerate in various ways is not something special, it is something that should always be done.”

In November 2017, the Secretariat of the Headquarters for the Promotion of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in the Cabinet Secretariat started a system for local governments to register as “Inclusive Society Host Towns” which would accept Paralympians for training camps ahead of the games. Including Iizuka, 37 local governments around Japan have registered. The summit had around 190 participants, including those from local governments which registered.

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The original Japanese article was carried on The Sankei Shimbun on October 21, 2019. Foreign Press Center Japan is responsible for the English translation. This article may not be distributed, reproduced, or publicly released without the permission of its copyright holders.

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