Barrier-Free Survey in OmotesandoCreating areas accessible to everyone, ahead of October art exhibition

On August 27, Bremen Survey Teams, a joint event held by The Nippon Foundation DIVERSITY IN THE ARTS Project and the Bmaps barrier-free map application project, visited Omotesando in central Tokyo to collect barrier-free access information and upload it to the Bmaps application. Approximately 30 people, including adults and children, and persons with disabilities and without disabilities, participated.

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Group photo of the Bremen Survey Teams

The event was held as part of the preparations for the Museum of Together art exhibition to be held in October at the Spiral building in Omotesando, to ensure that anyone will easily be able to attend the exhibition. Spiral is an upscale, landmark building facing Aoyama-dori, a major thoroughfare. Various works of modern art are on display and for sale at the entrance, making it an ideal location for the Museum of Together exhibition. The Bmaps application is a barrier-free map application jointly developed by The Nippon Foundation and Mirairo Inc., which seeks to eliminate “information barriers.” The crowd-sourced application provides 19 types of information for facilities that people may want to visit, including the number of steps at the entrance and inside, the width of hallways, restroom facilities, and lighting, not only for persons with disabilities but also for persons using baby strollers or with other considerations, so they can easily plan their visit.

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Mirairo’s Hiromi Kishida explains the importance of barrier-free information and the Bmaps application

The Bremen Survey Teams divided into six groups, and spread out in Omotesando collecting barrier-free information for various stores and shops, with the goal of posting reviews (survey information) for at least 10 locations each. Groups that did not include a wheelchair user were provided with a wheelchair to collect information from a wheelchair user’s perspective. Participants using a wheelchair for the first time noted, “Even a small incline or step is frightening,” and “I couldn’t go in the direction I wanted to.”

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Using a wheelchair in Omotesando

The survey showed that roads or shops that people tend to pass through without any thought can be very difficult for persons with disabilities to use. Working together, the groups experienced together the inconveniences faced by wheelchair users when they want to go out. This gave them a strong impression that most physical aspects of social infrastructure and environments pose a barrier to someone.

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A participant experiences the difficulty of pulling open a door while using a wheelchair
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Posting a facility’s barrier-free information to Bmaps

Several participants were college-aged, and were participating because they want to create a society that understands diversity in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This event gave these people a chance to gain and share insights as to how the world should be in the future, and also an opportunity to talk with people with whom they would not ordinarily interact.

The Bmaps project aims to have reviews of one million facilities around the world posted by 2020. Through this project, someone wanting to go to a restaurant or shop today can become the map for people wanting to go there tomorrow.

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