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Tokyo's Shibuya Ward launches 'toilets for everyone' project

TOKYO -- The capital's Shibuya Ward has announced a plan to install new public toilets friendly to all users including transgender people and people with disabilities, at its new or renovated buildings.

The toilets will include those usable by people of different sexes, and facilities with multiple features meeting the varying needs of people with disabilities or special needs, according to ward officials. "The Shibuya standard toilet may spread across the nation," said Mayor Ken Hasebe when the plan was announced on Nov. 8.

Public toilets in Japan generally have men's and women's facilities along with a separate, multifunctional toilet for people in need of more space. such as those in wheelchairs or with small children.

The sex-based arrangement, however, is said to be challenging for transgender people whose identities are different from their biological sexes, or for people helping toilet users of different sexes.

Meanwhile, multifunctional toilets are often busy and said to be too spacious to use for people with visual impairments. "Multifunctional toilets are lagging behind the times," says architecture specialist and professor Gihei Takahashi of Toyo University.

According to Shibuya Ward's basic plan for public toilets, diversity and choice are the key concepts for new facilities. This is based on the thinking that toilets are vital facilities for everyday life, and the hindrances they can pose to human activity and social participation need to be overcome.

On top of making public toilets open to both men and women, the ward intends to introduce independent toilet booths with different functions so that users can choose one appropriate to their needs. They will have specific functions for wheelchair users, people using an artificial anus or bladder, or those with babies or young children.

Some of these new toilet types will be installed in the new ward office building to be complete in January 2019. The local government will also ask commercial facility operators in Shibuya to consider introducing inclusive toilets.

(Japanese original by Kaori Gomi, Medical Welfare News Department)

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