From China Comes the Call for Inclusive Travel

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From China Daily:

Every year, December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Disabled people in Beijing, however, would have a hard time going out to celebrate it.

"As a country with a large disabled population, China should do more to improve social security and social service for its people with disabilities," Cheng Kai, vice president of the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF), said on Tuesday.

The United Nations dedicated the International Disabled Day in 1982. So far, the world has about 650 million disabled people, or 10 per cent of the global population. Of those, 83 million are in China.


Although preparations for hosting the Beijing Olympics and the Paralympics made the ancient capital more accessible to the disabled, Beijinger Guan Yan still feels inconvenience when she leaves her home.

The 37-year-old Dongsi Shisantiao Hutong resident, who has been paralyzed from the waist down due to spinal cord compression for the past 23 years, has to sit in the wheelchair wherever she goes. But as an English teacher, Guan goes out a lot by taking different transport vehicles.

Subways and taxis are her most frequent means of transport, ever since Beijing's subway network was expanded and the country's first barrier-free taxi fleet hit the capital's roads last year.

Taking buses is much cheaper than taxis, but she seldom take buses because the city has few low-floor accessible buses and few bus stops indicating which bus is the accessible one.

To get a taxi, she has to book one several days in advance. The city only has 70 barrier-free taxis.

"Such a taxi has bigger interior space, and a ride in the barrier-free taxis costs 2 yuan ($0.3) per km, the same amount as an ordinary taxi... so, some people with no disabilities claimed they are disabled but use it to carry their large amount of baggage or cargo," Guan said, adding that a driver of a barrier-free cab told her such details.

To book an accessible taxi, one has to call the Beijing taxi dispatching center's hotline (961001) from 7 to 8 am at least one day in advance. The operator will contact the taxi companies and phone the caller back about whether a taxi is available or not, an operator with the center said.

Xie Zhanyuan, a 53-year-old retiree who has suffered polio since 11-month-old, said most wheelchair hoists installed at subway stations in the capital stopped operation after the Paralympics.

"It took almost an hour for my two friends in wheelchairs and me to take the wheelchair hoist, which is too long and inconvenient for the disabled," said Xie, who volunteered with another 61 citizens in Dongcheng district to check the city's barrier-free facilities.

At the Imperial Palace, barrier-free pathway and elevators were installed to allow wheelchairs-users to reach the top of main buildings. But Xie found the elevators were out of service due to equipment failure on this National Day holiday.

"Disabled people are encouraged to integrate into society, which is hard if we can not even walk out of our homes without barriers," Guan said.

Early last month, similar inconvenience for long-distance travel even prompted two disabled men from Liaoning province to sue the Ministry of Railways (MOR) for failing to provide reserved seats for the disabled.

Luan Qiping and Xie Wenqiang, who have to walk with crutches because of lower limb disabilities, tried to go by train from Beijing to Shandong on October 16. They were unable to secure seated tickets and had to travel standing up. They finally disembarked at Tianjin station, only two hours after boarding the train, because they weren't able to stand any longer.

They sued MOR after finding out many disabled had similar experiences. But they soon withdrew the lawsuit for unclear reasons, said Zhou Wei, a Sichuan University law professor who offers them free legal help.

"Despite the withdrawal, their action did increase citizens' awareness of the rights and interests of the disabled," Zhou told China Daily.

"Public places should install relevant barrier-free facilities to ease travel outside, which is a basic right for people with disabilities and has been stipulated in relevant laws and regulations. But of course it can't be achieved in a short time," he said.



Source:
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-12/03/content_9105142.htm

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