As a Paralympic athlete, I know the Tokyo 2020 Games can be a catalyst for change. But Japan must shift how it treats disability
The Paralympic Games cannot, and should not, be expected to resolve every aspect of disability inequality or remove the practical barriers that can challenge independent living. However, we should have learned by now to not underestimate their power. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games offer a huge opportunity for the city and for Japan as a whole, and it’s one that should be capitalised on.
This week news stories emerged detailing the significant challenge of finding accessible accommodation in Japan, where hotels have demanded payment to make hotel rooms accessible for Paralympics GB athletes, then a subsequent payment to convert them back. It sounds like a form of exclusion – or people being penalised for being disabled. Gradually, grants are being made available to help support the process, and the British Paralympic Association has been collaborating with partners to share knowledge and expertise from the UK in how to make rooms truly accessible. But it has been a long-term conundrum that has prompted some to question if the Paralympic Games will have the impact in Tokyo that we would hope for. If these stories of hotels charging for improved accessibility play out, that’s not what we would recognise as progress, or any lasting positive legacy.