The Spread of Saga Prefectural Parking Permit through Collaboration with Citizens
Regional Welfare Division, Health & Welfare Head Office, Saga Prefectural Government

The Problem

• Before the introduction of the Parking Permit System, volnerable people who have difficulty in getting into and out of a vehicle, such as the disabled and pregnant women, were at a loss with no available disabled parking spaces.

Many public facilities, such as shopping centers, hotels and libraries in Japan are required under a national law to be accessibility-conscious and provide wide parking spaces for vlnerable people who have difficulty in getting into and out of a vehicle. This kind of parking space is marked with the globally common symbol (wheelchair mark).

However, there was a concern in the general public that the actual utilization of these parking spaces indicated a nationwide problem, with eligible users not being able to park due to able-bodied persons having parked their cars in designated spaces because of their closeness to the entrance of facilities.

Furthermore, those disabled persons who do not use a wheelchair and people who are not designated as disabled but have difficulty in walking due to aging, pregnancy or illness, and who cannot be distinguished from able-bodied persons found themselves involved in disputes over the use of parking spaces for the disabled.

This kind of problems has been caused by the central government agencies focusing only on making a physical rule under which owners of public facilities were asked to establish disabled parking spaces, without being fully aware of the need to make practical rules as to who can park their cars in the parking spaces, and the need to familiarize citizens with these rules.

• Universal designs were expected as a prerequisite of a society where people could live with peace of mind.

“Universal design” was defined as the “design of products, environments, programs and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted in the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006. The promotion of universal design has since then been a general obligation for the Parties.

Adopting “universal design” as one of the basic ideas of promoting its policies, Saga Prefecture aimed to create a society premised on universal design, where everyone can live positively, happily and safely while having the feeling of relaxation in the warmth of the community by establishing “Saga Universal Design Promotion Guidelines” in March 2006.
The prefecture needed to take measures to address the parking space problem, which was symbolic in realizing its objective.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
A Parking Permit System is a demand-driven multi-party commitment program for helping vulnerable citizens who have difficulty getting into and out of a vehicle. Saga Prefecture, a small prefecture with an area of 2440 km2 and a population of approximately 850,000, has implemented a Parking Permit System since July 2006. The change in the number of people with a user certificate and of cooperative facilities with the parking space designated for the vulnerable groups is as follows:
Jul 2006 Mar 2007 Mar 2008 Mar 2009 Mar 2010 Mar2011
No. of people with a user certificate 573 3,423 5,645 7,812 10,626 14,532
No. of cooperative facilities        221    4 23      517       892      1,200     1,584

After the user certificates wee issued to those who were eligible to use the parking spaces for the disabled groups, surveys were conducted. The target groups commented in the surveys that the situation had improved so that they could park their cars without worry any longer. Also, facility managers favorably supported the system, commenting that since anyone could tell whether drivers parking their cars in the parking spaces for the disabled were eligible, and that they were in a much better position to detect, and give warning to those drivers conducting inappropriate parking.

In March 2007 (the first survey) and March 2009 (the second survey), the prefecture carried out questionnaire surveys of users of the Parking Permits. As a result, respondents who answered “Reduction in inappropriate parking (in parking spaces for the disabled)” accounted for 55% of the total in the first survey and 58% in the second survey, and those who answered “Became easier to park” amounted to 75% in the first survey and 78% in the second survey. It is considered that the effect of the system has gradually taken root.

After Saga Prefecture commenced its Parking Permit System, residents of the prefecture have become more sensitive to the fact that some people around them, such as the disabled and pregnant women, have difficulty in walking for some reasons. Starting with this system, new attempts are being initiated in Saga Prefecture, which include Ureshino City holding the National Convention on Universal Design that created a groundswell to help convey the prefecture’s positive efforts for the universal design throughout Japan, as well as the holding of the annual “Barrier-free Film Festival” where movies with the SAP function and/or subtitles are gathered and shown for disabled and able-bodied persons to enjoy together.
Moreover, the Parking Permit System has been gradually more widely applied in a number of parking facilities throughout Japan, with 22 prefectures having introduced the same system by December 2011. This indicates that nationally, an increasing number of people who have difficulty in walking have become able to go out of their residences and enjoy more active life styles.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
1. Who Proposed the Perking Permit System?
In his first manifesto, the Governor of Saga Prefecture, Yasushi Furukawa aimed at the “creation of an all people-friendly city with the universal design.”
Introducing universal design as his basic policy, the governor established the “Saga Universal Design Promotion Guidelines” in March 2006, adopting opinions from representatives of various stakeholder organizations and eight advisors who had played active roles at the national level.
Yasuhiro Yamazaki, one of the advisors and a wheelchair user, proposed his idea of implementing the Parking Permit System to Saga Prefecture.

2. Who Implemented It?
Furukawa believes that the universal design must be a “prerequisite” in all areas of social and economic activities rather than simply being “something to be considered.” Saga Prefecture was the first prefecture in Japan to implement the Parking Permit System as a prerequisite all over the prefecture.
In the planning stage of the system, the Prefecture's Regional Welfare Division, considered that unlike similar systems overseas with the law enforcement power, they should focus on listening to the voices from the target users and that they should focus on the fact that the target users are not only the disabled but also those who had difficulty walking,unlike systems overseas.
In the process of making decisions on details, such as the scope of target users and the validity periods, they considered the opinions of persons with relevant knowledge and experience, groups associated with the disabled or elderly, child-rearing circles and intractable disease support centers.

As a result, the validity periods for the Parking Permits have determined to be a maximum of one year for pregnant women and temporarily sick or injured persons, and five years for persons with constant difficulty walking, such as the disabled.

3. Who were the Stakeholders?

Managers of relevant facilities, who were troubled with the inappropriate use of their parking spaces, issued a warning note whenever inappropriate parking occurred, but this practice was found to not be so effective.As each facility was able to decide by themselves who could use the parking spaces, they often received complaints from the eligible users, who were not able to find parking spaces.
As such, users, facility managers and the prefectural government jointly considered a mechanism for eliminating the inappropriate use of the parking spaces. This effort involved supporting each other in understanding the positions of other parties, and to make the mechanism sustainable. Then, the mechanism was put into operation.
Since the inception of the system, the mechanism has been improved in order to enhance the degree of user satisfaction and to respond to facility managers’ requests.
After five years from the inception , people requesting the renewal of their user certificates come to designated counters one after another. Saga Prefecture actively listens to the opinions of those people from their 5-year experiences.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
1. Main Purpose
The fundamental idea behind the Saga Prefecture’s Parking Permit System is the “Saga Universal Design Promotion Guidelines.” These guidelines were formulated by considering the opinions of persons with relevant knowledge and experience, representatives of residents and private businesses, civil organizations, eight advisors from both Japan and overseas with deep insight into the principles of the universal design, and stipulate measures to make the Saga prefecture a place where anyone can live without anxiety, the individuality of each resident is respected, and people can actively participate in public decision making processes.
Under these guidelines, the Parking Permit System is regarded as part of the prefecture’s community-building efforts that aim at a comfortable community for everyone. The purpose is to enable people who truly need parking spaces for the disabled to go out without anxiety.

2. Strategy
① Establishment of the Operational Rules
i) Those who need wide parking spaces for the disabled located close to the entrance of a facility are people who have difficulty in walking for reasons.
Saga Prefecture has set a standard that people who have difficulty in walking, and who need parking spaces for the disabled, include not only the disabled but also the elderly who require nursing care, persons with severe intellectual disabilities, patients with incurable diseases, pregnant and postnatal women, and persons who are temporarily sick or injured. Furthermore, the prefecture established the rule that those persons who have difficulty in walking, and who have been so designated by the prefecture, should show their Parking Permits (user certificates for parking spaces for the disabled) issued by the prefecture as a sign when parking their cars in parking spaces for the disabled.
ii) To implement this type of rules smoothly, the cooperation of parking space managers is essential. Saga Prefecture has secured necessary parking spaces by concluding agreements with managers of facilities who have clearly indicated that their parking spaces designated for the disabled are designated for the Parking Permit System in order to clarify that these parking spaces are meant for target users only.
②Numeral Targets
In February 2009, Saga Prefecture, as a part of the “Saga Prefectural Universal Design Implementation Plan,” set numerical targets as outcome indicators (No. of people with a user certificate and of participating cooperative facilities) for the promotion of the Parking Permit System in the prefecture for the next five years (FY 2009 to FY 2013).
③ Proliferation
This ideal of Saga Prefecture is not limited to just the prefecture. If the Parking Permit System is introduced to the altogether 47 prefectures in Japan, people who have difficulty in walking can travel anywhere in Japan without anxiety. To realize this objective, Saga Prefecture has decided to provide other prefectural governments with information on its experience and methods.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
1. Results
The numerical targets set in the “Saga Prefectural Universal Design Implementation Plan” and the results are as follows:
                                  2008   2009     2010    2011    2012     2013
No. of people with a user certificate (targets)          8,000     9,000   10,000   11,000   12,000
No. of people with a user certificate (results)    7,812   10,626   14,523
No. of participating facilities (targets)                900     1,000   1,100    1,150    1,200
No. of participating facilities (results)         892   1,200    1,584
To achieve these targets, the prefecture made an effort to deepen understanding of the system amopng participating facility owners and employees by assigning 10 part-time employees to offices in five areas for about one year for their intensive visits to the relevant facilities.
Since more residents in the prefecture understood the Parking Permit System, both the number of persons with user certificates and the number of participating facilities achieved their respective target levels as of 2010.

2. Proliferation in the Prefecture

In order to improve the convenience for applicants, the Saga Prefectural Government called for the cooperation of the municipalities (cities and towns), or the closest government units to the residents in issuing user certificates.
Application counters were originally established only in the Saga prefectural institutions, but these were later joined by 35 places in 19 cities and towns in the Prefecture in 2011.

3. Proliferation outside the Saga Prefecture

The number of prefectural governments that have introduced the Parking Permit System has increased as follows:

                                      2008   2009   2010   2011
No. of prefectures that have introduced the system     7     12     16     22

With some prefectural governments preparing for future introduction of the system, more than half of the entire prefectures in Japan are expected to have initiated similar systems by 2012.
Furthermore, the relevant prefectures are promoting the mutual use of the user certificates. In situations where the mutual use of the user certificates between surrounding areas has already been available since 2009, Saga Prefecture took the initiative of holding the first ever meeting of prefectural governments to implement and discuss the Parking Permit System in August 2011, and proposed the realization of the mutual use of user certificates nationwide in the future.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Since the introduction of the system, the following two problems have emerged.

1. Inappropriate Use of Parking Spaces Designated for the Disabled

Not all users of parking spaces for the disabled showed their user certificates.
When the Parking Permit System was first introduced by Saga Prefecture, since the idea of clarifying the eligible users of parking spaces for the disabled had yet to be recognized by the society, it was necessary to make the system itself more widely known to the public.
Since this system was not legally binding, it was impossible to remove the cars of users who did not have user certificates from parking spaces designated for the disabled.

However, Saga Prefecture considered that what was necessary to achieve the purpose of this system was not to establish penalties. This was because the prefecture worried about those methods which require extra personnel expenses, becoming a one-sided solution that depended on the law enforcement agencies.
It was regarded that asking parking users to show their user certificates and using peer pressure from other citizens against persons who park their cars in parking spaces for the disabled without a user certificate would be less costly and more effective than imposing penalties. On top of that, this method, coupled with the prefecture’s education and public information activities concerning the awareness of the universal design, led to cooperative activities by participating companies and CSOs, enhanced their consideration for handicapped persons, and helped restore human ties and increase social capital in communities.
Therefore, we are certain that this is a replicable method for a financially stringent local government.

Accordingly, to learn and understand the purpose of the system was critically important for as many residents as possible. For the sake of having this system take root in society, the prefecture made an effort to enable the system to be widely known by distributing fliers to organizations to which target users and many industry groups belong, and by providing individual explanations on the system. Furthermore, the prefecture strived to deepen ordinary residents’ understanding of the system through publicity activities via newspaper advertisements and TV commercials.
However, some drivers appeared not to fully understand the system. The prefecture believes that it is necessary to make the system widely known to drivers through educational videos and other media.

2. Lack of Parking Spaces

Proliferation of the system has revealed that some facilities cannot now provide a sufficient number of parking spaces for the disabled due to a greater number of people with user certificates.

To solve this problem, Saga Prefecture decided to take measures for securing additional parking spaces.
Paying attention to the fact that some people who have difficulty in walking do not use a wheelchair or require a wider parking space when parking, Saga Prefecture, by obtaining cooperation from facility managers, has newly designated the ordinary-width parking space closest to the facility entrance as a target space for its Parking Permit System (Parking Permit Plus One Space).

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
1. Financial Resources

The Parking Permit System can be implemented at the minimum with user certificates and guide stickers.
To make the system widely known, fliers, TV commercials and newspaper advertisements were also created.
For the Parking Permit Plus One Space, which has been in operation since January 2010, road marking sheets were applied to the relevant parking spaces to more easily tell them apart from general parking spaces.
The costs for these efforts were covered by the prefectural government.
High school students from the Industrial Section of Saga Prefectural High School Education Society created guide signs for the parking spaces. Since these students’ schools utilized private grant sources for the production fund, including the cost of materials, the guide signs could be offered inexpensively to facility managers. The cooperation of these students is the result of Saga Prefecture’s promotion of student education to deepen understanding of the universal design.

As daily publicity activities, the prefecture has provided timely topics at low cost by using the web pages of prefectural and municipal offices, as well as PR brochures.

2. Technical Resources

The user certificate was designed to have a shape easy for display inside a car so as to be seen from from the outside of the car. Since the user certificate must be heat-resistant and endure more than five years of use (period of validity), polypropylene was adopted as the material.
Since the guide stickers must be robust enough for outdoor installation and be UV-resistant, vinyl chloride was used as the material. Private companies in the prefecture provided advice on the material, and produced and delivered the user certificates and stickers.

To simplify the design of the road marking sheets for the Parking Permit Plus One Space with the use of pictograms, a design was chosen on the basis of the opinion of Advisor Yamazaki. Application of the sheets was carried out by a private company in the prefecture. The sheets were heat-applied to the parking spaces according to the condition of the pavement surface.

3. Personnel Expenses
Services for the issuance of, and consultation on, the user certificates were provided by the Saga Prefecture's Regional Welfare Division, five Offices of Health and Welfare which were established by the prefecture as local institutions, and administrative organizations such as municipal and town offices.
The prefecture temporarily hired a number of unemployed persons as part-time workers who were to ask for cooperation on the Parking Permit System.
Mr. Yamazaki, who proposed the design, donated his advice to Saga Prefecture so that it could achieve its goal.
Management of the relevant parking spaces was undertaken by the cooperative facilities themselves. When these facilities needed guide signs, high school students provided guide signs that they had made in class to the facilities, in order to make their communities a more livable place.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
1. Continuing the Effort

The minimum materials necessary to operate the system are user certificates and guide stickers. The financial burden to create these materials was not so large, with the costs per user certificate and per sticker being 200 yen and 400 yen, respectively. Also, the establishment of many dedicated service counters could reduce the burden of the handlers.

Since this was the first attempt of its kind in Japan, Saga Prefecture has made every effort to enable the system to take hold by specifying the problems of the system and points of improvement in the paperwork through questionnaire surveys for users and facility managers, public meetings with organizations of disabled people and related organizations, and listening to the opinions of applicants at application service counters; and to reflect what has been learned through these efforts in the implementation of the system.

2. Wider Application of the System
The application of this system has been expanding nationwide so that altogether 22 prefectures are expected to introduce the same system by December 2011. With some of the other prefectures having already decided to introduce or considering introducing the system, more than half the entire prefectures in Japan will have initiated the system by the end of 2012.

Saga Prefecture believes that its system has been repeated and widely adopted because the appropriate use of parking spaces for the disabled is desired in any area, regardless of its locality.
Also, the prefecture believes that this system can be used worldwide if the purpose of such a system with very simple rules is properly understood by people and organizations concerned.

Since staff members of Saga Prefectural Office presented papers on their efforts regarding the Parking Permit System at the 3rd International Conference for Universal Design, which was held in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka, Japan, in October 2010, the system became recognized by participants from all over the world and other concerned parties at the conference.
Furthermore, the Universal Design National Conference was held in Saga Prefecture in December 2010. At this national conference, a panel discussion on Parking Permits was held to contribute to a deeper understanding among participants from all over Japan regarding the system, and arguments were developed that could be referred to by prefectural governments currently implementing or planning to implement the system.

Saga Prefecture is now asking other prefectures to realize the mutual use of their respective user certificates between prefectures for the future. Currently, the mutual use of user certificates beyond Saga prefectural boundaries is underway, as the system has been further improved for users' convenience, and the system is becoming increasingly widely adopted.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
① Although the problem of inappropriate use of parking spaces was recognized as a social issue, people simply did not have any concrete ideas for solving the problem. Saga prefecture enhanced people’s awareness of this system to establish a rule that people who truly need parking spaces for the disabled alone should be able to use them, rather than imposing penalties against inappropriate use of these spaces. As a result, people’s morality has been hightened, resulting in fewer instances of inappropriate parking.

②The target users of this system are not limited to the disabled and include people with temporary difficulty in walking, such as pregnant women and the injured. By making this system widely known as a universal system accessible to anyone, a number of people will think of the problem as one that is relevant to their own lives.

③ Since the appropriate use of parking spaces for the disabled was also an critical issue for a number of facility managers, once Saga Prefecture successfully obtained the cooperation of facility managers, this system began to be promoted on the basis of public-private joint efforts.

④ Counters responsible for the issuance of, and consultation on, the user certificates, were established in various locations in the prefecture. The financial burdens for these counters were shared by municipalities within the prefecture as well so that the financial burdens to the prefectural government were lessened. Such arrangements contributed to keeping the system sustainable. In Saga Prefecture, the system has also become an accessibility-conscious system for applicants, with the introduction of both computer-based and regular mail applications.

⑤ By taking the current system as the one sensibly responsive to the ever changing circumstances, and by continuing carefully listening to users' opinions, Saga Prefecture was able to improve the system addressing the actual situation and real needs, and to come up with fine ideas to make the system more widely known.

⑥At the occasion of the Great East Japan Earthquakes in March 2011, mass media reported to the world population scenes of Japanese people observing the rules and considering the socially vulnerable individuals even when facing an extremely difficult situation. Such reports encouraged a large number of people living in other countries. We, Japanese, were also convinced that we naturally had a high sense of morality and a spirit of sympathy, which is well reflected in our Parking Permit System and can be shared by people all over the world.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Regional Welfare Division, Health & Welfare Head Office, Saga Prefectural Government
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Yuuko Terasaki
Title:   Project Chief  
Telephone/ Fax:   +81-952-25-7053 / +81-952-25-7264
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   1-1-59 Jonai
Postal Code:   840-8570
City:   Saga-shi
State/Province:   Saga
Country:   Japan

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