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FEATURE: Japan's public facilities making life easier for colorblind+
[April 03, 2006]

FEATURE: Japan's public facilities making life easier for colorblind+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, April 4_(Kyodo) _ Tokyo subway stations are more user-friendly nowadays for people who are colorblind. So is the Soka municipal hospital in neighboring Saitama Prefecture.

They represent part of growing moves being made by local governments and the private sector to make life a little easier for people with weak color-discerning ability.

More than 3 million Japanese are said to have congenital red-green blindness. One in 20 men has the red-green impairment while the ratio for women is 1 in 500.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications advised railway companies in January to improve displays such as timetables that use combinations of colors that the colorblind have difficulty with.

For example, in Tokyo with its multiplicity of subway lines, boards above the ticket-vending machines showing the different routes use a variety of colors that not only the colorblind have trouble in deciphering.

As a remedial measure, station names circled by colored rings now carry the initial of the name of the line in Roman lettering. If, for example, the station name shows an M within the circle, it is on the Marunouchi Line.

The municipal hospital in Soka, which opened four years ago, posts information displays on wards and toilets in ways that are decipherable by those who are unable to see the difference between some colors.

Yosuke Tanaka, 37, who was a member of a civic group campaigning for a better deal for the colorblind, said there are many markings used in daily life that are hard for people with color-vision impairment to differentiate.

Few complaints are heard, he said, because many colorblind people want to conceal the impairment to avoid discrimination.

Tanaka also said that doctors and specialists in the sense of color have not given any concrete suggestions to designers to improve the situation.

However, with the late-dawning realization in Japan that providing barrier-free facilities is a social obligation, the situation has improved somewhat in recent years, spurred on by the aging of society. So-called "universal designs" for facilities usable by all people have become widespread.

Another area of concern for the colorblind is the color coding used for warnings attached to home appliances and on notices in public areas.

To deal with this, one company, Nihon Rikagaku Industry Co., has marketed chalks using a vermillion color for red and a dark color for green to show a clearer difference.

Ricoh Co., meanwhile, has developed copying and fax machines equipped with two lights to enable anyone to judge the mode of the apparatus without relying on the color. Previous machines carried one light which displayed either red or green, depending on the mode. A Ricoh spokesman said, "It's our social mission to offer (machines) that anyone can use."

The message has reached makers of TV sets and remote controls, too. One maker has added the Kanji characters for colors, including "blue" and "red," to the colored buttons on remote controls for TV sets that receive terrestrial digital broadcasts.

The Kanagawa prefectural government drew up guidelines on the use of colors during fiscal 2004. Tokyo's Chuo Ward Office put together notes last May cautioning teachers not to ask schoolchildren to name specific colors in front of the whole class.

The Tokyo metropolitan government prepared guidelines on colors in January and the Yamaguchi and Saitama prefectural governments are expected to follow suit soon.

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