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Universal design in the 1970s Japan

Kan Nomura

Professor, International University of Health and Welfare Graduate School / Chairman, the Japan Association for Inclusive Society : Japan

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The concept of community welfare was introduced to Japan in 1965, and the system of priority settlement in public housing began together with this movement. At the same time, Sendai, Sapporo and several other cities began to construct barrier-free houses on their own. These movements developed into barrier-free public housing in 1971, and expanded into public subsidized housing of other organizations. However, since physical functions differ among disabled persons and the standardized design cannot cover all of them, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government developed adjustable houses for wheelchair users and achieved some positive results. After that, local governments with high technological skills constructed public housing along this line.
Meanwhile, in 1969, the “campaign to expand the sphere of livelihood for the physically disabled” began to grow out of the dialogues between a wheelchair user living in a facility in Sendai and a volunteer, and developed into a major public movement. As a result, prefectural government offices, city offices, stations houses, department stores and others became barrier-free in 1970. It was the beginning of barrier-free town development in Japan.

In 1970, the World Exposition was held in Osaka. Disabled people wished to see this event of the century, and succeeded in persuading the exposition bureau to make it a barrier-free event. As a result of spreading out the town development movements in these two cities on a nationwide scale, the campaign to expand the sphere of livelihood for the physically disabled rolled out in Machida, Koriyama, Katsushika-ku of Tokyo, Nishinomiya and several others. In reflection of these active movements, local governments gradually developed an interest in welfare town development.
As a matter of course, there started a movement to establish certain standards necessary for town development. The movement first started in Machida, and later, Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, Kyoto and several other autonomous communities with high technological skills instituted guidelines for preparing welfare environments in late 1970s. However, the legal binding force of these guidelines remained weak.
However, because of these backgrounds, the 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons and the subsequent 10-year plan were accepted.

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From Barrier Free Design to Universal Design

Tadao Koga

Professor Emeritus (Ph.D. in Engineering), Kyushu Institute of Design : Japan

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Dr. Tadao Koga will outline the development from designs for the disabled in late 1960s, the barrier free design and to the universal design campaign in today’s Japan from the followings perspectives, and present a vision about the future universal design:

  • Development to the establishment of universal design campaign
  • Approach from fields of architecture, engineering, industrial design, craft design, etc.
  • International Year of Disabled Persons and Japan’s state measures as the outcome
  • Change in the corporate philosophy on product planning: From the age of planning oriented to manufacturer to the age of planning towards all people
  • Design for the elderly
  • Necessity of building design method for the universal design