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The Heart Barrier Free Project-Assisting people with wheelchairs for a better quality of life!

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The Heart Barrier Free Project-Assisting people with wheelchairs for a better quality of life!

What's this Challenge about?

What is “Heart Barrier Free Project”?

The “Barrier Free” system in Japan allows people in wheelchairs to move freely inside houses or even at public facilities without a problem; but still many restaurants clothe shops and many other stores in public restrain people on wheelchairs to enter. But with the “ Heart Barrier Free Project” that will not be a matter anymore.

4 years ago, I was involved in an accident that resulted in my spine being injured. After that I no longer felt that it would be possible for me to go to fancy stores for dinner, or to places where I would usually go.
That was what I thought, until I met my trainer. He would always encourage me by saying it’s never impossible for me to enjoy life. From that day on my life changed decisively, and I was able to live optimistically.

When you live on a wheelchair often times store clerks will tell you that the store entrances aren’t made wheel chair friendly, because of one tiny step they have. But what if clerks are just a bit friendly, or compassionate about the ones on the wheelchairs? Then it wouldn’t matter if the step was giant, or if the store had a whole stairway.
But in reality the majority of people living in the modern day have not been in contact with a person on a wheelchair, let alone assisting someone on it. We, the ones on the wheelchair must also seek for your help to get this project along.

Making all of the stores barrier-free is impossible; what with the confined space of the country itself it is impossible to rebuild entire stores in it. So what we are aiming for is not the reestablishing of buildings, but the reestablishing of people’s hearts and minds. If one person can have a change of heart, we can all start a change in a wide range.

“The Heart Barrier-Free” project will aim to spread its influence upon countries other than Japan. We will be aiming towards countries in the Asian areas, where travelers in wheelchairs often times have a hard time during their visits. If stores that support “The Heart Barrier-Free” project increase and guidebooks that give information on where this project is being in progress start to become sold we believe that it can lead to a better society for all people.

At Kushi-Katsu Tanaka Setagaya store
A snapshot of the Heart barrier free project crew from Paris.

So how can we see if stores support this project?

If you see this sticker at your local store, that’s the sign for relief. Just ask for help and your store clerk will try his or her best to assist you in entering and exiting, and even during your time at the store.

How does the “Heart Barrier Free Project” portal website work?

We as a team aim to build a portal site that anyone can search up their near-by “Heart Barrier Free Project” supporting stores easily, and smoothly.
Below is a diagram of how the site will be working.

With the initiating of this portal site, we decided to announce this project on COUNTDOWN.

Comments from supporters of the “Heart Barrier Free Project”

From “Kushi-Katsu Tanaka” holding more than 16 stores inside Tokyo.

It might be the first time I ever sat on a wheelchair.

When I was working as a part-timer for “Kushi-katsu Tanaka” in Setagaya I had no knowledge of what was barrier-free and what was not. It wasn’t like I had a grudge against the matter; but it simply didn’t occur to me that these things existed in the world.

But one day a man came by to our store. This man was Ikeda Katsuaki.

Mr. Ikeda: “Manager does this store have space for wheelchairs?”
Me: “Of course. But we do have steps, but is that alright?”
Mr. Ikeda: “We’ll push it in, but the aisles are so narrow.”
Me: “I’ll ask the other customers to stand.”
Mr. Ikeda: “I’ll call my wife in then.”

And soon after that a woman on a wheelchair appeared inside the store with her daughter.
And that person herself was Ikeda Kimie.
What surprised me was the atmosphere of the family. While I expected a family with darker expressions on their faces, this family had smiles all over their faces. How they conversed and acted was almost the same with a normal family; the only difference was that the mother was on a wheelchair.

The entrance had 3 steps, and the floor was filled with customers.
First we started out with asking the other customers to make some room for Mrs. Ikeda.
I offered to help, but her husband carried her over the 3 steps with ease. That was where I first learned how to maneuver a wheelchair.

And from this day on I became to recognize how society lacks assistance for disabled people. It was not like I avoided them; they simply did not exist in my head until this day.
And also from this day the Ikeda family often came back to visit. The store employees became close to the family, and after a while Mrs. Ikeda would even visit the store alone.

We as a store began to study how wheelchairs worked.
For example
Wheelchairs are order-made, so there are slight differences in size for all wheelchairs.
Some people can use their hands while others cannot.
Even the smallest step can limit the movement of wheelchairs.

And our biggest lesson learned was: “When there is a will, there is a way. “
People with light disabilities can come to the store alone; thus with a small amount of help from the employees they can enjoy their time.
People with heavy disabilities that cannot even go to the bathroom on their own need help; thus with assistance from employees they too can have a swell time.
What we mean, is that the assistance that employees give have a big effect on people, whether with light or heavy disabilities.

And this experience will continue on living for the employees, even after they quit their jobs as part-timers.
What is more, the experience still lives inside me too. When I see a blind person at the bus stop, or at train stations I always try to help in the best way I can. Also after the earthquake donations were made for the disabled down in Tohoku.

Of course there are times when I am rejected from these people, but that does not stop me from trying to help.

Right now some of my stores are completely barrier-free, but because of circumstances such as money and size of the building it is sometimes impossible to build a completely barrier-free store. But still, I do not go through the extra effort to build these. Why? Because the most efficient method to building a barrier-free environment is the assistance of the workers at the store. If they are willing to help no step or narrow aisle can disturb both the customer and the worker.

Kushi-Katsu Tanaka is supporting the “Heart Barrier Free Project” and at the same is trying hard to create a stress-free environment for customers with wheelchairs.

Note Co, LTD.
Keiji Nuki

A snapshot of the Heart barrier free project special supporter,Ms.Natsumi Ogawa ,Popular Japanese TV talent.

Picture of Yokohama Brewery gift package.

Translation of newspaper article:
President of K-Plus+ Co. LTD, Kimie Ikeda
Ms. Kimie Ikeda (37) At a restraunt in Yokohama-City giving her statement on the “Heart Barrier Free” project.
In 2007 Mrs. Ikeda was involved in an accident in “Shiespa” a hot-spring facility in Tokyo where she injured her spinal cord. Since then she has started a company that raises awareness for the need of barrier-free facilities in Tokyo.
On this day she gave a speech on how Yokohama would become a better place if it were friendlier towards the ones on wheelchairs.
She states that “Even if stores weren’t barrier free, the assisting of workers at the store can make a huge difference”.

A snapshot with President of Yokohama Brewery ,Mr Hisashi Ohta and staff