A Brief Introduction to Living in Japan with a Physical Disability

Japan has active laws and programs to help those with a disability, assisting them in their daily lives. Learn more about how the Japanese society does it and some of the kinds of support one can get if living or traveling in Japan with a disability.

Table of Contents

  1. Living with a Disability in Japan
  2. Definition and Classification of Disability in Japan
  3. Benefits Provided for Physically Disabled Persons
  4. Takeaway

Living with a Disability in Japan

Living with a disability is not easy. But living with a disability in an unwelcoming community or country is worse and can be tormenting. There are still some places and people in different parts of the world that discriminate and look down on persons with disabilities. They are often seen as incompetent, less capable, and burden to society. They are the common victims of bullying, humiliation, and unfair treatment. This underwhelming perception of society makes the lives of persons with disabilities so much harder and sadder. 

The great news is more and more communities, countries, and people are becoming more welcoming and open to persons living with disabilities. One of these places is Japan. In the past, Japan was among those countries that have no clear legislation focusing on the rights of disabled persons. Before, people with physical incapacities or mental illnesses in Japan were usually discriminated against and even excluded from society. And while still not a perfect country, the social welfare system in Japan has changed and improved after World War II. 

Implementation of Laws about Disability

After World War II, Japan has started to highlight the importance of social welfare and services. The 1946 Japanese Constitution states that the government shall make efforts in promoting social welfare and security and public health services to all the citizens in the country. This major step taken by the Constitution towards social welfare had made a great impact and paved the way for more laws to be implemented for the benefit of all people from different walks of life including those living with disabilities. 

※ Disability Information Resources, "Welfare Services for Persons with Disabilities in Japan"

Since the implementation of the 1946 Japanese Constitution, Japan has continued to improve and develop its laws and regulations in order to promote better welfare services to needy people especially persons with disabilities. In 1949, the Law for the Welfare of Physically Disabled Persons was established, followed by the Law for the Welfare of Mentally Retarded Persons of 1960. Then, many other laws concerning the welfare of disabled people in Japan have come to be throughout the years including laws about jobs and work opportunities. These laws have provided people with disabilities a huge relief and more freedom in their communities. 

※ Disability Information Resources, "Disability Statistics in Japan"

A More Friendly Community

Upon implementing those laws in the country, people seemed to have changed their perception as well towards disabled persons. People have become more understanding and compassionate to them. Persons with disabilities have received better treatment and greater understanding which are vital for making them feel comfortable and accepted by society. 

The most ubiquitous evidence about this societal change is the ramps and platforms built on establishments like train stations in order to provide persons with disabilities ease and comfort of access. Other examples will be discussed in the latter part of the article. 

Definition and Classification of Disability in Japan

General Classification

Article 2 of the Disabled Person’s Fundamental Law (1993) defined “Disabled Persons” as those people whose daily life and activities are hereby affected or limited because of existing physical disability, mental disability, and retardation. This definition is considered as the most comprehensive description of disabled persons in Japan although other laws provide more specific definitions of these persons.

※ Disability Information Resources, "Disability Statistics in Japan"

Based on the definition, people in Japan who have mental illnesses and disorders like Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease are also considered as disabled persons. However, this article will be focusing more on the welfare services provided by the government and society to people with physical disabilities only. 

Types of Physical Disabilities

Some of the disabilities that fall under the “physical” category are the following:

  • Visual impairment

  • Hearing impairment

  • Voice and speech impairment (which includes people who have lost their mastication function and those who have language disorders)

  • Limbs impairment (either upper or lower)

  • Body dysfunction

  • Internal organ impairment (including cardiac, renal, respiratory, bladder, rectal, and intestinal disorders)

Disability Parameters

Aside from those classifications, physical disabilities can be further categorized in different parameters based on the permanence and severity of a disability. Some of the welfare services and benefits provided by the government vary depending on the level of physical disability a person has. 

For example, in terms of visual impairment, if both eyes have a visual acuity of less than 0.04, the disability falls in second grade. It is considered more severe and falls under grade 6 if both eyes have visual acuity of less than 0.2. To know more about this, click here to see an attached list of Degrees of Physical Disability.

Disability Statistics in Japan 

Benefits Provided for Physically Disabled Persons


Japanese government endeavors to promote income security for people with disabilities by providing pension plans. Pension plans are vital for assisting disabled individuals in their daily needs and consumptions. Some of the pension plans designed for persons with disabilities are the Disability Basic Pension and the Disability Employee’s Pension. These pension systems provide disabled persons with financial assistance and other welfare allowances like a child-rearing allowance. Persons with disabilities are also subject to some discounts on fares and restaurants and even free passes on some railways and establishments.

Welfare Services

Persons with disabilities are also subject to certain welfare services that are designed to help them in their daily life. A Certification of Disability will be issued for individuals that they can use as an identification card for any transactions that require service IDs. A red help mark placard is also given to those that have less obvious disabilities so that those around them are aware that they may be in need of assistance. They are given access to any measures of correcting their impairment like medical examination, counseling, and rehabilitation. They are also provided with impairment aids like hearing aids, wheelchairs, walking sticks, shaded glasses, and other equipment that they are going to need for their daily activities. There are allowances, home helpers, and other services available as well that they can utilize for better functioning. Other welfare services for persons with disabilities in Japan are mentioned here:

Welfare Services for Persons with Disabilities in Japan

And in order to receive pension and welfare services, one should visit their local city office to receive more information and ask for assistance in doing so. 

Community Contribution

Aside from the government benefits provided, the Japanese community is also contributing to the welfare of persons with disabilities. Most establishments and tourist attractions build ramps so that wheelchairs can pass through. There are train platforms as well specifically designed to provide comfort to persons with disabilities. In most train stations, disabled persons are provided with special services like helping them carry their belongings, pushing their wheelchairs, arranging their train transfers, and assigning staff to members to accompany and escort you.

Japan is also known for its convenient and automated toilets where they can comfortably use the bathroom without a hassle. Most facilities in Japan, especially in malls, hotels, restaurants, and airports, are high-tech and accessible to persons with disabilities. 

Despite hardly initiating conversation with strangers in normal situations, Japanese people tend to be more compassionate about people in need of help in the moment and they are often more than willing to offer any help wherever and whenever people need it. 

There are also barrier free apps, like WheeLog! from which disabled persons can get information about wheelchair accessible facilities around town. Users of the app can also contribute information, making it a community effort.

If you are traveling in Japan, sites like Accessible Japan are available to give tips about accessibility around the country.

Accessible Japan


Living with disabilities is never easy. However, a friendly and accommodating community can make living with physical disabilities a little easier. If you are looking for a great country to reside in, you might want to consider the beautiful country of Japan. Japan offers many benefits and welfare services in favor of persons with disabilities. The people and the community as well are warm-hearted to take care of and respect disabled persons.



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