Photo/IllutrationHidemi Anraku regularly uses a wheelchair while attending sessions of the Kagoshima prefectural assembly. (Makoto Hokao)

Less than half of the nation's prefectural and major municipal assemblies have made enough efforts to become barrier-free for members in wheelchairs.

An Asahi Shimbun survey revealed that only 29 assemblies, or 43 percent, said wheelchair users can readily access their assembly chamber.

The Asahi asked all 47 prefectural assemblies and all 20 assemblies of major municipalities that have jurisdiction close to those of prefectures whether their forums were accessible to members using wheelchairs.

The Hiroshima city assembly said it removed a seat near the entrance, enabling a wheelchair user to directly enter the chamber and occupy the vacant spot.

The change came about because an assembly member required temporary use of a wheelchair.

Other assemblies provided for wheelchair access by having assembly staff move chamber seats or installing seats that could be easily removed.

The 38 assemblies that said they did not have wheelchair access to their chambers gave varied reasons for not doing so.

The Gifu prefectural assembly said no consideration had been given to the need for such measures, while the Kita-Kyushu city assembly said staff had never envisioned that a wheelchair user would enter the chamber.

Twenty-five of those 38 assemblies said there had never been an assembly member using wheelchairs in their jurisdiction.

Another 12 assemblies said members in wheelchairs had been able to move themselves into regular chamber seats.

The Tokyo metropolitan assembly said it could not ascertain if there had ever been a member using a wheelchair.

The survey also asked to what extent wheelchair users could get around in the chamber.

More than half, or 39 assemblies, said members in wheelchairs could reach their seats, but only 25 assemblies said the members could get to the podium to address the entire assembly. No assembly had measures to allow wheelchair users to reach the seat of the assembly leader.

The survey also asked assemblies how information was provided to members with other disabilities. Eight assemblies said they used sign language, while four said they provided written summaries to the members. One assembly said it provides materials in Braille.

Seven assembly members nationwide were using wheelchairs when the survey was taken.

Kagoshima was the only prefectural assembly with a member using a wheelchair. The six other members all were part of municipal assemblies.

(This article was written by Tomoaki Hosaka, Chika Urashima and Toshihiro Kashiwagi.)