By Justin Schroth

The Olympics has been hosted by many countries around the world and one common issue is access to information for those who do not understand the hosts native language. Often this means displays and announcements must be presented in many multiple languages or in a language like English that is often used around the globe. Nevertheless, the access is often not perfect, especially for those living with hearing or visual impairments who cannot receive all the available information. The Tokyo 2020 games want to change that.

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games working in conjunction with Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication wants to include as many diverse people as possible with the help of technology (as part of the Tokyo 2020 Games Universal Design approach). Specifically, they developed a free smartphone app to aid not only people living with hearing or visual impairments, but also those who do not understand Japanese. This app, known as the Omotenashi Guide, is designed to recognize specific audio announcements and display them via text in several available languages, as well as recognize specific written displays and convert them into audio format of an available language. The app will be usable at many of the venues in and around the Tokyo 2020 Games, the supported available languages are: Japanese, English, Chinese (traditional/simplified), Korean, Spanish, and French. Additionally, it is also designed so that in an event of an emergency it can provide assistive information (such as during earthquakes, evacuation information, etc.) which is useful for everyone, not just those living with disabilities.

Sadly, with the pandemic restrictions on overseas guests attending the games, many will not be able to take advantage of this technology in person. Nevertheless, we at Accessible Japan are happy to see such dedication to expanding and improving accessibility needs. We hope that the guests that will attend as well as Olympic and Paralympic athletes will use this app to enjoy more of what the Games have to offer.

You can find more information on the Omotenashi Guide app here:


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