IPC President Andrew Parsons hailed transport improvements and greater awareness of Paralympic sport in Japan ©Getty Images

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons has claimed the Paralympic Games is already having an impact on Japanese society, with 500 days to go until the Opening Ceremony.

Parsons pointed to an increased awareness of Paralympic sport and Para athletes in the host nation, which he feels will lead to changes in attitude.

The Brazilian believes greater employment opportunities for people with disabilities could occur as a result.

He cited statistics on the impact of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on driving inclusive employment.

It is claimed London 2012 led to one in three people changing their attitudes to disabilities.

This is believed to have contributed to 3.85 million people with disabilities now being in employment in Britain, nearly one million more than five years ago.

The IPC states there has also been a growth in Brazil of 49.3 per cent from 280,000 in 2009, when Rio de Janeiro won the right to stage the Paralympics, to 418,000 in 2018.

Parsons also cited improvements to transport infrastructure and an increase in Para sport commercial support and spectator numbers in Japan as areas of progress.

“The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics are a unique opportunity to change Japan forever and with 500 days to go we are already seeing this transformation starting to take place,” he said.

“Para athletes are now frequently featured in the Japanese media and on television and, in Tokyo, there is no escape from Paralympic Games branding.

“It’s fantastic to see the Games are having an impact in many areas.

“Historically, people with disabilities have been on the edges of Japanese society but the 2020 Games are changing this.

“Growing awareness is slowly shifting attitudes and employers, many for the first time, are taking disability seriously and realising the full benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce.

“It’s fantastic to see the number of persons with disabilities securing employment in the private sector in Japan is increasing at a faster rate than overall employment.

“Most employers still fall short of the two per cent Government target for employing persons with disabilities, but I fully expect this figure to grow, especially next year when the Games take place. 

“During the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, millions of Japanese people will witness the outstanding abilities of Para athletes first-hand and I am certain that this will transform attitudes towards disability and make Japan a more inclusive country.”

Improved accessibility at airports was cited as a positive by the IPC ©Getty Images
Improved accessibility at airports was cited as a positive by the IPC ©Getty Images

The IPC stated Tokyo’s Haneda Airport had recently been named the world’s best airport for people with reduced mobility and accessible facilities. 

Almost 90 per cent of train stations and airport terminals are claimed to now benefit from flat floors, while the figure is nearly 94 per cent for bus terminals.

An aim for all transport hubs to be 100 per cent accessible has been made by the Government.

As well as infrastructure improvements, the number of accessible trains and low-floor buses has increased significantly in recent years, with the IPC claiming the Paralympic Games had served as the catalyst.

The IPC has also been buoyed by more commercial support for the Games, with Tokyo 2020 boasting 70 Paralympic partners.

The number of companies supporting the Japanese Para Sport Association has also increased by 52 per cent since 2015.

“Barrier-free infrastructure and transport not only benefits persons with disabilities, but parents with strollers and an aging population,” Parsons said.

“The Games are clearly helping to improve mobility in Japan.

“I’m also really pleased to see that increased commercial support is having a direct impact on interest levels.

“Para sport events which used to attract hundreds of fans are now attracting many thousands. 

"This is hugely encouraging ahead of the launch of Paralympic ticket sales later this year.”

IPC President Andrew Parsons claims Tokyo 2020 will have a strong impact on Japanese society ©Getty Images
IPC President Andrew Parsons claims Tokyo 2020 will have a strong impact on Japanese society ©Getty Images

“Sometimes there is an incorrect assumption that Para sport is not top-level sport but I can assure you that it is, and Para athletes will prove it at Tokyo 2020," Parsons continued.

“There are few people on Earth that can run 100m in 10.5 seconds, yet we have athletes who can do this who are either missing an arm or leg, or have a vision impairment.

“The sport really is amazing to see and is played out in front of a fantastic family atmosphere.

“Not only is Para sport top class with many world records likely to be broken, but the depth of competition is also increasing with each Games.

“The Japanese public can expect many top-quality races and matches across all 22 sports and I am confident new sporting heroes and favourite sports will emerge.

“I think wheelchair rugby is one sport that will really grab the attention of the Japanese public.

“Japan are the world champions, having beaten two-time Paralympic champions Australia last year and will start Tokyo 2020 as strong contenders for gold."

Parsons told insidethegames last week there there was still an issue with the number of hotel rooms available for wheelchair users or those with mobility difficulties.

He claimed the shortage may be mitigated by modifying existing rooms.

Around 4,350 athletes from 165 countries are set to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

The Games will take place from August 25 to September 6 next year.