The Japanese government has approved a bill to encourage public transport operators to make their services accessible for people with disabilities ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The bill to amend the law on accessible transport, if passed in the Diet, would require operators to formulate and release to the public plans to make facilities accessible or face a fine of up to 500,000 yen.
But it stops short of setting a deadline for the implementation of these plans.
The government has set a target of ensuring that services with a daily ridership of 3,000 or more people can be used without navigating stairs or other uneven surfaces by the end of the 2020 fiscal year.
It went a step further with the latest bill because many operators are not making the necessary changes, citing a lack of space or the high costs of renovating facilities to make them accessible.
The bill also makes clear that operators should make plans for their staff to offer more assistance for elderly passengers and passengers with disabilities when boarding or alighting.
It would expand the application of the existing law to charter buses and sightseeing boats or ships.
It would also require municipal authorities to designate specific areas for concentrated efforts to improve accessibility. This would allow authorities to demand that operators of railway stations and bus terminals in these areas make improvements if the facilities are found to be lacking.