• Health

Being Disabled in Japan: Work Adjustments & Accessibility

person in a wheelchair on a road crossing

Japan is a glorious country filled to the brim with culture, work opportunities and many sights to see. This is however made more complicated if you have a disability, with you having to ensure accommodation, attractions and workplaces are all accessible.


Finding the right information for accessibility within Japan can be taxing in itself, but luckily we’ve compiled all this information for you in one handy guide.


So whether you’re considering a working holiday, or just a short visit, below is a comprehensive guide on the reality of being disabled in Japan and the accessibility options available to you.


What Does it Mean to be Disabled in Japan?


Being disabled in Japan, like any other country, has its challenges. Having to dedicate additional time to researching a venue, travel and hotels etc. while time consuming, is well worth the effort to ensure an accessible and comfortable experience.


In Japan, disabilities have been legally defined into three categories; physically disabled, intellectually disabled and psychiatric disabilities. While it’s pretty self explanatory, it’s worth knowing which category you are assigned to as each category has different support and incentives available.


1. Physically Disabled


Physical disabilities can be acquired at several points in your life, being before or after birth. Prenatal disabilities are acquired before birth, perinatal disabilities are acquired in a short period after birth, and post-natal disabilities are acquired after birth.


Physical disabilities can be broken down into three categories; mobility impairment, visual impairment and hearing loss.


2. Intellectually Disabled


An intellectual disability, similarly known as a general learning disability, is a generalised neurodevelopmental disorder. This can be categorised by severely impaired intellectual and adaptive functioning.


The most common disabilities of which include Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, Neurofibromatosis as well as often overlapping conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.


3. Psychiatric Disabilities


A psychiatric disability, otherwise known as mental health disorders. Mental health is a widespread issue and thus we have compiled a full guide on mental health and depression in Japan to provide you more information.


There are many different disorders stemming from mental health including; depression, anxiety disorder, mood disorder, Bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder, personality disorder, eating disorder, sleep disorder, sexual disorder and many others.



Accessibility in Japan: Measures in Place for Disabled People


Visiting, or more so, living in a foreign country such as Japan can be overwhelming to begin with, nevermind being disabled and scrambling for information on accessibility. It’s important to understand what accessibility measures Japan already has in place that you can take advantage of.


Below are the general work adjustments and accessibility measures that are available for disabled people in Japan.


In later sections we will also discuss accessible transportation options, accessible hotels and accommodation as well as accessible tourist attractions and travel destinations in Japan.



Wheelchair Access


While most travellers will have their own accessibility equipment such as wheelchairs, this isn’t always the case. In some situations you may need to hire a wheelchair and hoist for short term rentals.


It may also make sense to hire one native to Japan, as wheelchairs built in foreign countries are deemed too big for maneuvering in Japan. The space restrictions in Japan has led to a wheelchair being created that is a sort of hybrid between manual and electric.


These wheelchairs are more compact and lightweight, fitting better within the landscape of Japan, with the benefit of being easily lifted.


Japan’s towns are also quite positive in terms of wheelchair accessibility. All curbs in Japan are cut, there are often slopes, and in smaller streets there is often no sidewalk and pedestrians share the road with vehicles.



Accessibility Equipment Rentals


Rentals can take up to two weeks to arrange, so if you’re looking to rent a wheelchair or similar equipment make sure you do it in advance.


There are many notable rental services available in Japan, however the most prominent is Ido Support. They provide both wheelchair/crutch rentals and accessible vehicle rentals in Tokyo.


Ido Support’s rent-a-car service provides you with a vehicle that either has; wheelchair access (ramp/lift), is hand controlled, or has a left accelerator.





Elevators are an interesting one in Japan. They are required in any building over four stories, and while this is consistent, how they’re implemented isn’t always functional.


The main problem with elevators in Japan is their size. For the most part they’re incredibly small, literally being the size of a wheelchair and nothing else.


The other problem is where they’re positioned, they aren’t always built at the bottom of a building, sometimes defeating the purpose of having them in the first place.


There are however some great uses of elevators in Japan. So much so, that over the last 15 years Japan has been investing in and adapting the use of elevators in common areas. One of the most accessible features they have implemented is lowered buttons, ensuring people in wheelchairs can reach the buttons and call for the correct floor.



Visual Impairments



For those that are visually impaired, there are a couple of options to help you out during your stay. Much like in the UK, Japan uses tactile paving to help guide disabled people to their destination such as in train stations.


There are two types of tactile paving: lines to indicate the direction of the path, and circles to indicate caution i.e the end of the path, train or tracks.



Japanese Braille


The other accessibility option provided is braille, although unfortunately it is only available in Japanese. Japanese Braille is also known as “tenji” meaning “dot characters” and uses kana characters represented by using a 6-dot cell.


Japanese braille has been heavily taught in schools and to people with disabilities and appears in a range of places – from drinks cans to handrails.


While Japanese braille is extremely useful for native Japanese speakers, it is ultimately unreadable for foreigners.


Fortunately, if you have to travel alone and are travelling by train, there are options available. You can contact a member of staff and ask for assistance through the ticket gates, they will help you onto your train. They will also call ahead to your destination where a member of staff will be waiting for you there.



Sign Language


As with many other countries, those with visual impairments in Japan use sign language. Again, this language is native Japanese and different to English sign language, for example.


Japanese sign language is called 手話 (shu-wa, lit) and can be translated to “hand language”. The same as any other sign language, Japanese sign language is made up of nouns, verbs, adjectives and other parts of sentences including suffixes.


There are other aspects to Japanese sign language such as 口話 (ko-wa, lit) which translates to “mouth talk” helping to differentiate between phrases with similar meanings. This is also further elaborated on with facial expressions, helping to express certain emotions and how you intend your words to come across – i.e. funny, angry, sad.



Accessible Toilets


When in a different country, the one thing you expect to be consistent are the toilets. In the very least knowing these basics are right can be comforting, especially for people with disabilities. Japan is one of the countries that has accessible toilets to a ‘t’.


In many countries accessible toilets can be a single stall at the back of the toilets, making it inaccessible for wheelchair users. Japan does a good job of not only making toilets accessible, but making them readily available, and for everyone.


What we mean by this is not only are disabled toilets common, but they are available to everyone – including the people assisting them. Japan’s solution is simple, 多目的トイレ, meaning “multipurpose toilet”, also referred to as 誰でもトイレ translating to “everyone/anyone toilet”.


These toilets are not only available for use for people with disabilities, but also seniors and  parents with children.


Accessible toilets can be found anywhere and everywhere! The most common of which is train and subway stations, or at tourist attractions, public buildings, large supermarkets, department stores, parks, and much more.


The other benefit of a Japanese accessible toilet is that they have automatic opening doors. These are triggered by two buttons, a green one to open, and a red one to close.


There are of course problems such as people using disabled toilets who don’t need to, and toilets not having a tank or backrest to lean on. But as far as accessibility is concerned, Japan has the majority of boxes ticked.



Disability Discounts


Japan offers numerous discounts for people with disabilities, these can be easily verified using your

disability ID (障がい者手帳), these can be also be called disability passports or cards.


This form of identification is to be used when dealing with the government and medical institutions to assess what benefits you should receive. It should be noted that ONLY residents of Japan registered with the healthcare system are eligible, this does not include visitors.


If you’re on a working holiday visa, you should sign up to the healthcare system as this entitles you to these benefits.


With this identification card you are eligible for discounts on transportation, tourist attractions and public facilities. Which can be difficult for foreign visitors, as they won’t have any means of identifying as disabled in Japan.


This, unfortunately, leaves you in the hands of the ticket counter. They will either let you by, no questions asked, or they will require proof. You can of course show them foreign identification, but this may not be understood or accepted.


If you’re a foreign visitor we would suggest getting your English identification translated to Japanese. This may not work everytime, but is your best chance to get a discount.



Internet Access


Fortunately your biggest accessibility asset in Japan is actually something you may have brought with you, your mobile phone! Providing readily available access to Google Maps, Google Translate and providing information on the accessibility of certain locations can save you a lot of time and energy.


There are numerous ways you can access the internet in Japan.



SIM Cards


You can pick up SIM cards from the airport, convenience stores and electronic stores. Unfortunately if you don’t have a residential address in Japan you cannot have a SIM card that enables calls and texts.


Fortunately you can have a SIM card that is data only – so you can call and message via social networking apps such as WhatsApp among others.





If you don’t have access to a SIM card you have two options; pocket wifi or regular wifi access.


Pocket wifi routers can be bought from airports and electronics stores, these are perfect for if you are travelling in a group or are using numerous devices. The device connects to 4G and you connect to the wifi from the router, simple.


While wifi hotspots are less common in Japan than other countries, there are wifi hotspots available to connect to. You can use the Japan Connected Free Wifi app, you can then connect to over 130,000 access points over Japan.


Also, conveniently, they are always available at airports. So you can rest knowing as soon as you land you will see the comforting sight of your airport icon change to a wifi symbol.



Guide Dogs


Guide dogs can be extremely helpful in Japan, however, problems can arise if you plan to bring your fluffy friend overseas. Sadly only Japanese trained dogs are covered by the law, therefore foreign guide dogs are not eligible to use public facilities.


However, this can be worked around by obtaining credentials from the Japan Guide Dog Association – this will ensure equal access regardless of where your dog has been trained.


Your dog will be given a temporary ID. And while this seems like a simple procedure, to be eligible for this you will need to be a certified member of the International Guide Dog Federation.


Guide dogs are entitled access to hotels, public transport, shops and private facilities – basically wherever you go your guide dog can follow.



Essential Japanese for those with Disabilities


If you don’t know Japanese it can be difficult to communicate during your stay. This may make it difficult to describe your disability and be entitled to the access you need.


While it isn’t necessary to be fluent in Japanese, it’s worth learning phrases that will be of use to people with disabilities.

A woman sits in a calming room using sign language to communicate with a man opposite her



Essential Japanese for those with Disabilities

If you don’t know Japanese it can be difficult to communicate during your stay. This may make it difficult to describe your disability and be entitled to the access you need.


While it isn’t necessary to be fluent in Japanese, it’s worth learning phrases that will be of use to people with disabilities.


Please find some of these below.


EnglishJapanese Pronunciation
Physical Disability身体障害Shintai shōgai
Hearing Impairment聴覚障害Chōkaku shōgai
Visual Impairment視力障害Shiryoku shōgai
Learning Difficulties知的障害Chiteki shōgai
AccessibleバリアフリーBaria furii
Accessible Toilet

誰でもトイレ /


Dare-demo toire /

Tamokuteki toire

Shower Chair

シャワーチェア /


Shawā che-a /

Shawā isu

Hand Rail手すりTe-suri
Guide/Service Dog補助犬Hojoken


If you’re looking for a word that isn’t on this list, while it isn’t always 100% accurate, Google Translate can be used to communicate.



Accessible Restaurants


Food is one of the main reasons to visit Japan. Their rich culture and traditions are present in their food, however, people with disabled often face barriers when wanting to eat at restaurants.


Finding accessible restaurants within Japan can be a challenge. You are faced with restaurants which have small interiors, making wheelchair accessibility difficult, as well as steps.


Your best bet is using some of the sites available to filter accessible restaurants in Japan.





Bmaps is essentially Google Maps with one crucial difference, it has been designed by and for people with disabilities.


Bmaps works to collect and share relevant information on the accessibility of public places such as tourist attractions, restaurants, shops and other facilities.


Information such as overall review in terms of accessibility, number of entrance steps, mobility and comfort, facilities, toilet, convenient features and much more are all readily available.


You can download Bmaps on PC, iOS and Android using the link provided here.





Gurunavi is a site similar to Yelp! and Trip Advisor, in that you select your activity/facility and you are presented with the best rated venues.


The benefit of Gurunavi for people with disabilities is the filtering system. The filter you will most likely be using the most is ‘Wheelchair Access’.


It’s worth noting that what a restaurant or public facility deems as accessible may not line up with your expectations and requirements of what is accessible.


You can access Gurunavi here.



Voltage and Battery Chargers (Wheelchair Charging)


As with other electronic appliances and their chargers, converters are required in Japan to make use of these. This is no different for accessibility equipment such as electric wheelchairs.


While we use 230v outlets, Japan uses 100v. Japanese chargers have two prongs. This means that you will need not only an adapter but a step-down voltage converter – so as to not overload and break the equipment and outlets.


While some hotels (larger chains) may provide converters, you are best contacting your wheelchair rental service for advice and further assistance.



Medicine (Prescriptions and Importing)


Medication can be a tricky one in Japan, as some medicine you would expect to purchase would actually be deemed as illegal. Therefore, Japan allows travellers to bring up to a two-month supply of certain medication.


However, if you’re looking to stay a bit more long-term, have a Japanese visa and national health insurance you are eligible for prescriptions from hospitals and clinics.


A blind man sits on a sunlit park bench, enjoying a hot beverage, with his guide dog by his feet


Accessible Transportation for Disabled People in Japan


Japan is extremely accessible in terms of maneuvering around; pavements (or sidewalks) are level, and curbs are cut to provide a sort of ramp for wheelchair users.


Even for those with visual impairments, Japan has put the proper measures in place to aid people with disabilities. Both pavements and stations are equipped with tactile paving to help disabled people navigate their surroundings.


If you’re wondering how accessible Japan really is for people with disabilities, read below for our breakdown of the different transportation options and how accessible they are.



Trains and Subways Accessibility


For the most part trains and subways are quite accessible – with tactile paving and accessible ticket machines.


Ticket machines are fairly easy to use for people with disabilities. They are fairly low so accessible for wheelchair users, and luckily can be changed to English. And tenji-blocks are available to help navigate visually impaired people to machines and around the station.


You don’t have to worry about navigating the train station. Go to the booth at the side of the ticket machines, these are staffed at all times. A member of staff will be available to take you to your stop, and better yet, communicate with the staff at your stop to help you at your destination also.


The inside of trains are also fairly accessible, you will easily be able to find a space that doesn’t have a bench where you can park your wheelchair to avoid blocking any exits.


Japan Rail Pass


It is heavily recommended if you are going to be using trains and subways to get around that you purchase a Japan Rail Pass. These passes will heavily subsidise your travel costs, giving you unlimited access for Japan Rail trains for one, two or three weeks.


The Japan Rail Pass comes in two different types; the normal one, and a Green Car pass. The Green Car pass is more expensive, but is more suitable for people with disabilities being that their trains are usually more spacious and less crowded.


However, Green Car trains are not accessible for wheelchair users, so wheelchair users should avoid this.


Such passes are NOT available for sale in Japan, meaning you need to buy a Japan Rail Pass before you enter the country. These can be obtained online, from a travel agent or any Japan-based airline.


Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Accessibility


The Shinkansen, also known famously as the Bullet Train, is a super-fast train in Japan. It is advised that you book tickets in advance, as the service is quite popular.


When booking your tickets you will inform the staff of your desired location and time, they will then look into booking your tickets. A special wheelchair area is available, and can be reserved.



Buses Accessibility


Buses in Japan can be a bit hit and miss for people with disabilities. With buses running from airports and between cities being inaccessible, and city buses (running inside the city) being more accessible.


The process of granting someone wheelchair access is more complicated than on a train. This requires the bus driver to set up the ramp, and then remove the ramp before setting off again.



Accessible Vans and Taxis


If you’re looking for an alternative to navigating the city, vans and taxis can be a great option. “JapanTaxi” is a new style of taxi in Japan inspired by London taxi cabs that can be found at the airport and in the city.


These taxis seat one wheelchair and one companion. Vans with lifts and minibuses are available but these need to be booked in advance.



Airport Accessibility


There are numerous airports in Japan, all of which provide in the very least basic accessibility options – with some offering more support than others.


The main accessibility features that are available across airports in Japan are:


  • Accessible toilets
  • Elevators
  • Optional guided assistance
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Writing boards
  • Electric cart pick-up
  • Parking spaces for people with disabilities
  • Quiet rooms

Please be aware that NOT all of these services are available for every airport in Japan.



Mobility Scooters


While mobility scooters are quite a common sight in the UK, the same cannot be said for Japan. They have been slow to catch on and therefore mobility scooters are extremely rare.


Unfortunately, mobility scooters, due to the busy nature of train stations for example, have very strict rules around them. While this is up to the discretion of the individual, it’s safe to say wheelchairs are a much more accessible option for transportation in Japan.


Accessible Hotels and Accommodation in Japan


Japan can be an extremely exciting place to visit, with its mass of culture, traditions, attractions and so on. However, if you have a disability this can make the whole process that much more intensive.


There are a few issues with hotels particularly regarding accessibility, the main being the availability of the information. The other problem is that all accessibility information is available in Japanese and not English, although with Google Translate this makes it slightly easier.


You will also have to enquire directly about accessible rooms for people with disabilities. And even then most hotels won’t have accessible options available.


Here are some of the accessibility features hotels may have to support you.


  • Shower chairs/roll in shower
  • Hearing loops
  • English information in braille
  • Guide dog permissions
  • Flashing alarms

If you want to find out what specific accessibility features are available from a hotel, it is worth enquiring directly with them to do so.



Accessible Tourist Attractions and Travel Destinations in Japan


There are some must-see tourist attractions and travel destinations in Japan. Sad to say the majority of these are inaccessible for people with disabilities.


If you are looking for an exact attraction or destination you would like to visit, it’s worth enquiring directly or conducting additional research.


There are numerous ways in which you can either preview or explore attractions.



Virtual Tours


Virtual tours are the perfect way to explore Japan before you set foot in the country. There are numerous virtual tours to choose from across different industries.


Whether you’re looking for food tours, educational tours or regional tours – Japan has you covered.



Accessible Day Tours


There are places (especially local guides) offering accessible day tours for people with disabilities. This is the perfect opportunity to experience Japanese culture in a way that is suitable for you.


There are many accessible tours to choose from such as mountains, pilgrimages; all of which are wheelchair accessible and barrier-free!


Some sights include Mt.Fuji viewing and Lake Kawaguchi, a full tour of Tokyo, and Hakone & Mishima Sky Walk tour.



Inclusive Accessibility Tours Designed for those with Disabilities in Japan


There are agencies available that are able to offer inclusive accessible tours designed for those with disabilities in mind. These tours can be created and customised with the individual in mind, so feel free to pick and choose what you’d like to see!


One of the travel agencies that provides this service is Ohayo Travel.



Permanent Disability Social Insurance Programs in Japan


In Japan, like the majority of other countries there are various health insurance policies and social insurance programs. Fortunately, Japan also has permanent disability social insurance programs that support those with disabilities.


Even if you have been diagnosed in a foreign country, you will need to be reassessed by a doctor in Japan. In which you will be required to pass a set of strict criteria that proves your disability and its limitations.


There are two different types of social insurance programs available to those that need long-term disability benefits. The first is for those that are self-employed or unemployed, the National Pension (NP) program. The second is for those that work full-time, qualify under the Employee’s Pension Insurance (EPI) program.


The difference between the two can be found within the rates, in which the NP program employs a flat-rate system, while the EPI program’s rates are based on the amount you earn.


There are several different types of social insurance within Japan; pension insurance, health insurance and long-term care insurance, unemployment insurance, worker’s accident compensation insurance, and private health and pension fund.





To receive the benefits from the disability pension you must meet the criteria. The first of which is you will need to have contributed to either program for at least two-thirds of the period between age 20 and the disability.


You must also be covered by one of the two programs from the day before your medical examination.


The outcomes of this examination will categorise you into one of three groups:


  • Group I includes persons with a disability that prevents them from conducting their daily activities and requires constant attendance;
  • Group II includes persons who have or require significant restrictions in daily life that severely impair their ability to live independently; and
  • Group III includes persons who have some restrictions in daily or social life that impair their ability to work.


Laws to Promote the Accessibility for Disabled People in Japan


While there are now an abundance of laws and rights protecting disabled people in Japan, this wasn’t always the case. Disability rights and policy in Japan saw drastic reforms back in the 1960s when it was first recognised as an issue both by the government and the public.


Below are the laws and regulations protecting disabled people in Japan, followed by the year that they were introduced. All these rights are protected by both international and domestic law.


  • Child Welfare Law
  • Mail Law
  • School Education Law
  • Workmen’ s Accident Compensation Insurance Law
  • Law for the Welfare of Physically Disabled Persons
  • Broadcast Law
  • The Public Office Election Law
  • Law concerning Mental Health and Welfare for Mentally Disabled Persons
  • Daily Life Security Law
  • Inheritance Tax Law
  • Local Tax Law
  • Social Welfare Services Law
  • Law for Encouragement of School Attendance at Special Schools for Blind Persons, Deaf Persons, Physically Disabled Persons and Mentally Retarded Persons
  • Employees’ Pension Law
  • Law on Special Measures to Improve Roads
  • Special Measures Act concerning Temporary Taxation
  • National Pension Law
  • Law for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded Persons
  • Law for Employment Promotion of the Persons with Disabilities (Rev. 1976)
  • Law for Road Traffic
  • Special Child Rearing Allowance Law
  • Maternal and Child Health Law
  • Income Tax Law
  • Employment Countermeasures Law
  • Human Resources Development Promotion Law
  • Disabled Persons’ Fundamental Law
  • Employment Insurance Law
  • Headquarters for Promoting IYDP (at the Prime Minister’s Office)
  • Headquarters for Promoting the Welfare of Disabled Persons
  • Long-Term Program for Government Measures for Disabled Persons (1983-1992)
  • Telecommunication Service Law
  • Law for Railway Business Enterprises
  • Consumption Tax Law
  • Disabled Persons’ Fundamental Law
  • New Long-Term Program for Government Measures for Disabled Persons (1993-2002)
  • Annual Report on Government Measures for Persons with Disabilities
  • Law concerning the Promoting of Research, Development and Diffusion of Social Welfare Equipments
  • Law for Promoting Business that Facilitate the Use of Communications and Broadcast Services by the Physically Disabled to Make These Services More Convenient and More Accessible to Disabled Persons
  • The Act on Buildings Accessible and Usable for the Elderly and Physically Disabled
  • Mental Health and Welfare Law of Mentally Disabled Persons
  • The Government Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities – A Seven Year Normalization Strategy (1996-2003)
  • Department of Health and Welfare for Persons with Disabilities reorganised and integrated in Ministry of Health and Welfare
  • The Act on Promoting Easily Accessible Public Transportation Infrastructure for the Elderly and Disabled Persons
  • The Act on Assistance Dogs for Disabled Persons
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Ratified in 2014)
  • Act for Eliminating Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities



International Legislation


There are two especially prominent international legislations protecting the rights of disabled people being; The Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)


Japan signed The Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in September 2007, but it wasn’t actually ratified until seven years later in 2014.


The reason the CRPD wasn’t ratified until all the way later in 2014 was due to several legislative amendments and policy reforms that had to be in place before the ratification of the CRPD. Even then, Japan was the 140th country to ratify the CRPD.



The Universal Declaration of Human Rights


While The Universal Declaration of Human Rights isn’t specifically for disabled people, it was forged with the ideology that all human beings are equal regardless of age, gender, disability etc.


Article 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically states that-

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”



Domestic Legislation

There are also specific domestic legislation that protect the rights of people with disabilities. There is a law within this that specifically highlights disability rights being ‘The Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities’ instated in 1970.


This was then revised in 2010, including aspects such as the recognition of sign language as an official language, creating a new framework for disability consumer protection, among other things.


The fundamentals of the ‘Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities’ are as follows:


  1. Every person with disability shall have a right to be respected for his or her individual dignity and lead a decent life.
  2. Every person with disability, as a member of the society, shall be entitled opportunities to participate in social, economic, cultural and all other activities in the society.
  3. No one shall be allowed to discriminate against persons with disabilities or violate their rights and benefits on the basis of disability.

Domestic legislation in regards to disability can be broken down into three main areas; employment, children and voting rights.


Disability Inclusion for Sport in Japan


Japan’s history of disability inclusion in sport started in 1964 when they hosted the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. They have since participated in every subsequent edition of the Summer Paralympics, and in every edition of the Winter Paralympic Games since its debut in 1976.


Japan has hosted the Paralympic Games twice, first in the 1964 Summer Games, and then decades later in the 1998 Winter Paralympics.


Japan made its Paralympic debut by hosting the 1964 Games in Tokyo. The country has participated in every subsequent edition of the Summer Paralympics, and in every edition of the Winter Paralympics since the first in 1976.


They were also set to host the Summer Paralympic Games in 2020, but due to Covid this has been pushed back to 2021. Set to debut on the 24th of August in Tokyo.



Does Japan Still Have Disability Shame?


While the accessibility options and rights for people with disabilities has vastly improved over the years, things still aren’t perfect.


Compared to the 1940s when disablism was rife, with the government sterilising people with a mental illness or disability as “inferior”, things are much better.


There are still aspects that could be improved on such as accessibility within accommodation and transport etc. but the regulations put in place by the government have drastically changed the rights and facilities available to people with disabilities.



Additional Advice for Being Disabled in Japan & Accessibility Options


Japan is the perfect country to visit or move to, whether to live and work or just to explore. And while this is made more difficult for people with disabilities, we hope our extensive guide helped to inform you of the reality of being disabled in Japan.


Some final noteworthy recommendations for those with disabilities in Japan fall under two pieces of advice; be vocal, and be patient.


On top of the language barrier, it will take time for people to understand the extent of your disability and what type of assistance you need. Being patient is necessary as help won’t always come immediately.


It’s also important to be vocal, without being forward about your accessibility needs you are unlikely to receive the help you need. Such as receiving assistance navigating and maneuvering train stations, this requires reaching out to members of staff.


Interested in living and working in Japan? Check out our teaching jobs

About the Author

Brian McDonough is a consultant at Interac, Japan’s largest provider of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). Originally from the US, Brian has lived in Japan for over 25 years, giving him a unique perspective on the cultural differences and challenges people face when moving to Japan. He has first-hand experience of working in Japan as an American.