Barrier-free promotion law faces revision

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The infrastructure ministry plans to revise the law promoting the development of barrier-free environments to ensure the

The infrastructure ministry plans to revise the law promoting the development of barrier-free environments to ensure the creation of facilities and areas easily accessible to the elderly and people with disabilities, according to informed sources.

The ministry is discussing ways to encourage municipal governments to make it a priority to map out plans to develop barrier-free infrastructure in areas that host government offices and commercial facilities used regularly by such people.

The agency plans to reflect the results of the discussions in a bill to revise the law. The bill will be submitted to the Diet next year at the earliest, the sources said.

Under the law enacted in 2006, new and renovated railway stations, as well as certain other buildings and roads, are required to meet barrier-free standards.

The ministry plans to revise the law due to the further aging of the population and in view of a large number of foreign people expected to visit for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the sources said.

The law allows municipalities to draw up basic plans for priority areas to promote barrier-free infrastructure development in an integrated manner. But of all 1,741 municipalities in Japan, only 294, or less than 20 percent, had basic plans in place as of the end of last March. Also, revisions are rarely made to such plans even if problems are found.

The infrastructure ministry aims to encourage more municipalities to produce wide-ranging plans for barrier-free infrastructure development and is also considering a mechanism for periodical evaluations of the development plans so that they can be revised to address problems that may arise, the sources said.

The owners or administrators of individual facilities have taken measures to make them easier for the elderly and people with disabilities to use. But a single facility that is not accessible in a specific area may prevent such people from moving around smoothly.

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