Earlier this month, the Super Welfare Expo took place in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. The exposition was the fourth edition of the annual convention that brings technology and developers together to rethink social welfare for the city’s minorities and disabled residents. Shinji Sudo, the exposition’s founder, hopes to bring abled and disabled peoples together to work towards a more accessible and inclusive city.

Social welfare in Japan and elsewhere is seen in a somewhat negative light, tainting the less fortunate with a kind of dependence and laziness when the truth of the matter is far different. The first expo Sudo put together was in 2014, which in its fourth edition garnered an impressive 45,000 visitors. He attempted to encourage conference goers to change the way that they see social welfare and also work towards navigating cities a little easier for the disabled, elderly and other minority groups.

On display in the expo were a number of automatic wheelchairs, hearing aids, and visual aids that would enable the disabled to navigate the city and attend conferences and events they were previously unable to. Japanese carmaker Suzuki boasted an electric wheelchair that claims it incorporated feedback from the community. Expo attendees also jetted off on the wheelchairs around Tokyo in efforts to understand how the wheelchair functioned as an alternative form of transport.

Alongside Suzuki’s wheelchair was Fujitsu’s “Ontenna” which is a state-of-the-art hearing aid that enables hard-of-hearing individuals to listen to music and other sounds using sound and light. This hearing aid grants disabled people the ability to attend concerts and other events that were previously inaccessible to them due to their disability.

Ontenna at Super Welfare Expo

Courtesy of Fijitsu

Although a major focus point of the Super Welfare Expo was how to make Tokyo more inclusive for disabled persons, there was also a spotlight on how to make the city easier to navigate and accessible to other minorities or vulnerable residents. Tokyo Metro Co., the company in charge of running the Tokyo subway system, announced that for five days in December, a phone app will allow riders to give up their seats to pregnant women riding the subway. Through the app, riders and mothers-to-be will be able to communicate once they ride the same train.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just a few years away, many are working to make the city more accessible and extend increased mobility to those who have found difficulty navigating the city in years past. For Shanji Sudo, the founder of the Shibuya Super Welfare Expo, the expo is not only about bringing people together within the four walls of the convention center. He also hopes that, in addition to helping make Tokyo more accessible to those who struggle to navigate the city, society will be left a whole lot more diverse.

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