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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 February 28 - March 6  > Wheel chair users criticize their municipality’s plan to slash welfare taxi program
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2018 February 28 - March 6 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Wheel chair users criticize their municipality’s plan to slash welfare taxi program

February 28, 2018
The government of Tokyo’s Meguro Ward in early February announced a plan to terminate a program providing financial support for people in wheelchairs who use welfare transportation services. The users of the program are calling on the municipal government to stop the move that will deprive them of opportunities for social participation.

At present, Meguro Ward offers two types of subsidy programs regarding the use of special-needs taxi services for wheelchair users, those with physical disabilities and the elderly. One is for persons who take taxis equipped with a wheelchair lift run by a government-contracted company. The other is for those who ride “welfare taxis" operated by 68 companies and other types of organizations that made an agreement with the ward government. The municipal government plans to abolish the former program.

Wheelchair users can use the “taxi with a lift” program for any purpose and pay 40% of the fare. They are allowed to utilize the program for a wide range of occasions including not only going to hospitals or rehabilitation facilities but also family ceremonies, sporting events, and theatergoing.

On the other hand, in the case for the “welfare taxi” program, users have to pay 90% of the taxi fare as well as additional fees for reservation, pick up, and basic assistance service. Although users receive from the ward discount coupons of the three additional fees, the number of coupons issued to users is only 48 per person a year. They can make a request for extra coupons, but the reason for the request should be “in order to go to hospitals or rehabilitation facilities”.

Takeda Maki, who heads a Meguro citizens’ group working to improve the livelihoods of disabled persons and children, has cerebral palsy and uses the “taxi with a lift” program to take part in various activities including the group’s events. She said, “I just want to do what citizens normally do. If we have the opportunity to move around freely, we will be able to share more time with and become closer to able-bodied people.”

Another member, Okada Naoko, also has cerebral palsy. She said that the other day she went to a theater and saw a person watching the play on a stretcher. Okada said, “Now many venues offer a barrier-free environment. But we will be unable to get there if our access to appropriate transportation is not guaranteed.”

Japanese Communist Party member of the Meguro Ward Assembly Ishikawa Kyoko criticized the ward government for going counter to the principle of the law to eliminate discrimination against the disabled. She expressed her determination to urge the ward to spend more on support for the disabled and continue the “taxi with a lift” program.
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