Just like the rest of the world, Japan runs on smartphones. Even children have small mobile phones that allow them to call home and allow their parents to find their child via GPS. Despite this, there is still the need for land-line based phone booths in case of a disaster or running out of batteries on your regular phone (also a disaster). On a recent trip to Tokyo Tower, we stumbled upon a bit of a rarity – an accessible phone booth!
Now, what makes a phone booth accessible? For starters, the door to enter the booth is hinged at the frame, but also is also hinged about a third of the way from the door frame as well. When you pull the handle to open the door, instead of opening in a large arc (requiring a lot of backing up and maneuvering), the extra hind also pivots, creating an accordion effect that essentially lets you slide the door to the side – with barely any footprint to get in the way. The door is also attached to a weighted pulley that prevents the door from slamming shut when you let go of the handle.
Inside, the booth is very spacious and easily accommodates an electric wheelchair. The phone is lowered for easy access and there are small tables on each side to place your belongings on. There is a retractable stool built in for those who do not need a wheelchair but find standing difficult – as it is retractable, it does not get in the way of those who use wheelchairs. Unfortunately, the phone receiver was quite heavy and could be difficult to hold. To leave the booth, you can either use the handles on the pulley mechanism, or the handle on the door.
While the need for public phones is dwindling, they are vital in a country like Japan where natural disasters are all to common. It is great to see an option for people with disabilities and the creative thinking and effort put unto the details.
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