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Gov't, carmakers to develop wheelchair-friendly taxis+
[June 27, 2008]

Gov't, carmakers to develop wheelchair-friendly taxis+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TOKYO, June 28_(Kyodo) _ The transport ministry will develop a taxi that enables wheelchair users to get into the vehicle without getting out of their wheelchair, ministry officials said Saturday.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism will join hands with automakers in developing a prototype of such a taxi, which they want to be also usable by other passengers, within the current fiscal year.

The move is in response to strong requests from wheelchair users, the officials said, adding the number of such users is increasing in Japan with the aging of society.

The taxi, modeled after ones used in Europe and the United States, would accommodate a wheelchair in a backseat space created by folding the seat. The wheelchair user would get into the taxi on a ramp pulled out from inside the vehicle.

Carmakers participating in the project met earlier this month and began studying the design phase for the envisaged car.

None of about 270,000 taxis currently operating in Japan can accommodate a wheelchair without having the passenger get out of it.

Wheelchair-friendly vehicles currently sold in Japan are mainly minivans equipped with an electric lift. But they are not suitable for use by taxis due to poor fuel efficiency. Such vehicles do not meet a fuel-efficiency industry standard of 500,000 kilometers being traveled over five years.

Yuji Mori, from a federation grouping disabled people's groups, said he hopes that a taxi that is both convenient and safe will become available in Japan.

Copyright ? 2008 Kyodo News International, Inc.

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