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People with disabilities deserve dignity

Updated: 2014-10-24 07:25
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

And it's not just the buses. Whenever I see people in wheelchairs moving freely between the shelves in the Barnes & Noble bookstores in New York or Washington, I wonder why I don't see many, or any, in bookstores in Shanghai.

The same is true for Epcot, a Walt Disney theme park in Orlando, Florida. Many wheelchair users explore and enjoy the park's programs like everyone else because all the facilities and services are designed to accommodate them.

Similar arrangements exist at various theaters, parking lots and public restrooms in the US, where spaces reserved for wheelchair users are often generous and very noticeable.

US society as a whole is remarkably friendly to people with disabilities. When I attended a Kenny Rogers concert in Maryland two months ago, I even saw a woman onstage interpreting with sign language.

There is no doubt that Chinese cities have become friendlier to people with disabilities, compared with the situation decades ago. But they still don't do nearly enough to encourage and welcome this group of people to fully participate in everyday life, even though the country is now the world's second-largest economy.

Those with disabilities are less fortunate in some ways, but if society is not ready to help them live life to the full and treat them as ordinary people, their troubles are magnified.

With 85 million of them in China - not a small number - many of these individuals could be our own family members, neighbors, colleagues and maybe even ourselves one day. So providing them with all necessary services and, more important, with dignity, is really the responsibility of everyone in society.

The National People's Congress, China's top legislature, should make more specific laws regarding the treatment of people with disabilities. And the government and private sector should keep this group in mind when designing facilities and offering services.

Above all, 1.3 billion Chinese should learn to respect this group of people, a group that is all too often overlooked.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

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