New Japan hotels must be wheelchair accessible before Tokyo 2020

TOKYO, Japan – New hotels in Japan with more than 50 rooms will be required to provide wheelchair-friendly accommodation, the government said Tuesday, October 16, as the country gears up to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Japan is hoping to attract around 40 million tourists annually by the time of the Games and concerns have been expressed over the quantity of accommodation and facilities for disabled travellers. (IN PHOTOS: Tokyo 2020 revives 1964 Olympic vibe)

Under the revised laws, which come into effect on September 1 next year, at least 1% of rooms in newly built and refurbished hotels or traditional inns must be barrier-free for wheelchair users.

"Through efforts to improve travel and lodging for the disabled, we hope to make the Games a success and create a society" where people with and without disabilities can live together, Olympics Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada told reporters on Tuesday. 

According to a government survey conducted last year, only 0.4% of around 100,000 rooms at more than 600 hotels or inns were "barrier-free".

Under the government definition, a barrier-free room must have an entrance wider than 80 centimetres (30 inches), a bathroom with handrails and no steps dividing rooms.

Tokyo has already embarked on an overhaul of its infrastructure with an eye to filling stadiums for the 2020 Games. (LOOK: Tokyo reveals Olympic mascots’ names)

Elevators and ramps are being installed across Tokyo's subway system, with officials saying around 90 percent of stations are now wheelchair accessible. – Rappler.com