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Efforts of Oshima Bus Co., Ltd. 1-9-6 Moto-machi, Oshima-machi, Tokyo

Conveying information related to accessibility through smooth in-house communication

Employees sharing their knowledge of accessibility in an open, trusting company atmosphere

One hour and 45 minutes away from Takeshiba Sanbashi by high-speed jet ferry. Oshima Bus is Oshima Island's only provider of public transportation. The company's buses run to sightseeing spots that include airports, ports, and Mount Mihara and are therefore frequently used by tourists in addition to the local islanders. Because many of the islanders that use buses are elderly, the company is pursuing efforts to ensure that such customers can use buses without worry. Satoru Hirano, the head of the Oshima office, and Yuka Sakurai, an office worker, talked to us about these efforts.

Operating fixed-route buses for which wheelchairs can be used

In terms of fixed-route buses that can be used by people in wheelchairs, we currently have four low-floor buses and two one-step buses. All of our sightseeing buses and charter sightseeing buses have steps.
At ferry arrival times, although tourists naturally use our buses as well, most of the users are islanders. In particular, elderly people who either don't have cars or don't drive use our buses to get to the hospital or other destinations. These people include wheelchair users as well as individuals who have dementia. Among tourists as well, we encounter several customers a year who are wheelchair users. Because we only have four low-floor buses, we can't regularly dispatch them at specific times on specific routes. However, if we receive an inquiry in advance indicating that, for example, a customer wishes to ride a bus on a certain route at a certain time, we can dispatch a suitable low-floor bus in response. In addition, we sometimes receive information from the ferry company in our business group indicating that a customer in a wheelchair is on board and wishes for a fixed-route bus, and we do our best to respond in such cases.

A support system for sightseeing-bus users

We provide advance explanations to disabled people who wish for a sightseeing bus. There are various types of wheelchair users, including those who can walk to a certain extent on their own, those who have caregivers, and those who can't walk at all. We therefore tell them in advance that all our charter buses require passengers to be able to climb steps and make sure that they understand this before using our buses, but we also share information in advance with companies affiliated with us to ensure that seats are prepared near the front of the bus and to take similar action for customers who have special needs.
In addition, when guests in wheelchairs use our buses, we make sure to ask them whether they need any assistance. We also make announcements on our buses to request that customers free up space near the entrance. When disabled people get on or off the bus, we hold their baggage and provide whatever other help we can without touching them so as to make it easier for anyone accompanying them to provide assistance.
To more effectively provide such support, our company has had one or two employees participate in transportation support manager training every year for the last several years. We prioritize veteran drivers capable of teaching others when deciding who to train, and then they provide feedback to the other employees.

A wheelchair-compatible low-floor bus

Struggles specific to fixed-route buses and future goals

The other day, we received an inquiry from an electric-wheelchair user who said they wanted to use a fixed-route bus to go sightseeing. When we told them that we would try to have a low-floor bus dispatched if they would tell us when they wanted to get on the bus and which route in advance, they were not at all satisfied and said, "How many minutes I'll spend at any given sightseeing spot depends on the situation, so there's no way I can decide when I'll need to get on a bus in advance." We struggled to find a way to deal with this. Naturally, after the customer got off, any fixed-route bus would have to proceed to each bus stop until it reached its final destination. We only have four low-floor buses, so any shift deviation would mess up the overall running schedule. In the end, we managed to come up with a system that would enable this particular customer to use our buses, but I suspect that we could have come up with a somewhat different solution if we had understood reasonable accommodation, disability characteristics, etc.
Although we are limited in terms of equipment and personnel, I hope we can continue studying to find ways to accommodate diverse customers.

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