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Transport ministry developing 'barrier-free' navigation app ahead of Tokyo 2020

An image provided by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism shows the app under development that provides information on barrier-free facilities inside stations.

In preparation for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is developing a smartphone navigation app that can search routes between sports venues and their nearest stations with information on barrier-free facilities and equipment.

    Users will be able to set toilets, ATMs, coin lockers and convenience stores inside transportation and sports facilities as destinations, and to search routes from their current location, with the app providing real-time guidance like a car navigation system.

    According to the ministry, some existing websites already offer searches for routes inside major train stations, but do not offer barrier-free search conditions. Because of this, wheelchair users have called for reform of these services.

    Under the search conditions in the new app, there are options for "wheelchair" and "baby stroller" that prompt the software to select routes with elevators and also display the locations of multipurpose toilets and other barrier-free information.

    For now, the transportation ministry is focusing its efforts on the development of the app for Tokyo and Shinjuku stations, Narita Airport and Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, where installation of transmitting devices that will work in place of GPS to make indoor navigation possible is underway.

    Once development is completed, the app may be available for free over the internet to users and railway companies to begin testing as early as this month. Employing user feedback, the ministry is pushing to expand the range of the app not only to indoor facilities, but to also cover the complete routes between more major train stations and Tokyo 2020 venues. In the future, the ministry hopes to add detailed outdoor information such as staircases and uneven sidewalks on the way to the venues.

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