Japan to have more wheelchair-friendly taxis

Japan's transport ministry plans to increase the number of "universal design" taxis that can easily carry passengers who use wheelchairs.

The number of such taxis increased from a few hundred before Tokyo was selected to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to about 21,700 in fiscal 2019.

Major train stations and roads were also made barrier-free ahead of the Games.

The ministry expects the vehicles will make up about a quarter of all the taxis in each prefecture in about five years.

Combined with other types of taxis for people who use wheelchairs, the number is expected to top 90,000 within the same time period.

There were 36 incidents between fiscal 2017 and 2020 in which the government punished taxi operators or gave them guidance for refusing to take passengers who use wheelchairs.

The ministry also instructed operators to set appropriate fares in response to some cases of illegal charges for helping passengers to get in and out of taxis.

Officials say they want to improve driver training and awareness and they hope that taxis will become even more user-friendly.