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New wheelchair escalator device developed in Fukuoka.

FUKUOKA, Jan. 5 Kyodo

A newly-designed escalator device which makes it possible for people on an electric wheelchair to go unassisted up and down stairs has been developed by an industrial design group based in Chikushino, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Satoshi Hashino, deputy head of Fukuoka Prefectural Industrial Technology Center and the principal developer of the system, says he hopes the device -- essentially a self-operated rail system -- would provide a barrier-free environment in railway stations and other public facilities as required by a new law.

A prototype model is expected to be completed shortly.

The device consists of two rails attached to the wall for securing the wheelchair and a third wave-shaped track that enables a specially-designed roller platform to carry the wheelchair up and down the stairs.

The wheelchair moves at a speed of about 3 meters per minute, Hashino says.

Wave-shaped tracks are quieter and create less vibration than sprocket wheels and would not require lubrication.

While the law governing barrier-free transport requires wheelchair elevators to be installed at newly built train stations and public facilities, or when they undergo major reconstruction, there is no mandatory requirement for existing facilities to comply with the law.

According to Ministry of Transport, as of March last year, only 38% of the train stations that are used by more than 5,000 people a day and have a height variance of more than 5 meters had elevators, while 62% had escalators.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Jan 8, 2001
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