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Efforts made to make Tokyo Games cultural program barrier-free

This photo taken on Nov. 16 shows a traditional Japanese drum dance performance held in Tokyo. (Photo courtesy of Team Lab Inc.)

TOKYO -- Trial events designed to make them enjoyable to people with disabilities with the help of special devices and applications have been organized recently, driving up expectations that those features would be incorporated in the cultural program associated with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to make it barrier-free.

The trials include a fireworks event held in October in the northern Japan city in Akita Prefecture of Daisen, known for its "Omagari Hanabi" National Fireworks Competition held every summer. Spectators with visual impairments enjoyed the rhythmic sounds created by the high and loud noises that the specially designed fireworks gave off, according to the event host Japan Hanabi Association, based in Tokyo's Chuo Ward.

Participants with hearings impairments wore devices around their neck that enabled them to feel vibrations that changed in intensity with the fireworks. Around 90 percent of them were satisfied with the device, according to the results of a survey.

This photo taken on Nov. 16, 2018 shows special devices to be clipped to the hair to enable users to feel the vibration of sounds. (Photo courtesy of JTB Communication Design, Inc. and Nippon Television Network Corporation)

Another trial featuring "nonverbal" traditional Japanese drum dance performance was held in Tokyo in November. Audiences felt the vibration of the "wadaiko" drums through special devices that could be worn by clipping them to their hair. A woman with a hearing impairment gave a high mark the device, saying, "It was great that I could feel the vibrations."

During the event, a speech recognition app transcribing speech into text was also used, enabling a smooth relaying of information transmitted through the public address system to those with hearing impairments.

The provision of cultural events is a must for the organizing committees of Olympics, as the Olympic Charter provides that they are obliged to "organize a program of cultural events which must cover at least the entire period during which the Olympic Village is open."

In connection with the Tokyo Games, the government-backed "beyond2020" program, which aims to realize a society where diverse people can live together post-2020, encourages participants to propose cultural events that "eliminate barriers of people with disabilities."

An official of the Cabinet Office, which commissioned the trial events, said that more efforts have to be made to improve the support for people with disabilities toward 2020. "We want to make improvements through trials," said the official.

(Japanese original by Hitoshi Kurasawa, Sports News Department)

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