January 25, 2006
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    Society extends a helping hand to the nation's disabled
Wang Ying
2004-05-20 06:08

The disabled members of Chinese society and others get to enjoy a special day on the third Sunday of each May, "National Aid to the Disabled Day."

And the Sunday just past - the 14th such day in the annual event's history - was extra special for Liu Qiang, 5, who has hearing disabilities. Liu, from Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, received an hearing aid as a gift.

It has improved his hearing greatly and Liu is expected to study with other children at a school in the future, said Sun Yougui, director of the Centre for Deaf Children in Heilongjiang, who organized the hearing aid donation.

"One-third of the country's disabled citizens have hearing problems," Sun said. "With proper hearing aid, many of them can improve their hearing and language abilities, especially children."

In Lhasa of the Tibet Autonomous Region, hospitals have given local disabled residents thorough medical consultations.

In the past several years, thousands of cataract patients in Tibet have regained their sight through free operations.

In Tianjin in the nation's north, auctions of art works donated by local artists and collectors have been held to help gather money for the city's disabled.

Thanks to continuous support by governments and non-government organizations, disabled people have experienced enormous changes and improvements in terms of education, living conditions and employment since the Law on the Protection of the Disabled came into effect 13 years ago, said Deng Pufang, chairman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation.

Deng says the government will devote the first two decades of this century to improving the basic conditions of disabled people and protecting their basic rights.

Raising funds with shows

"If you have a brother or sister who is disabled, you will understand how heavy a burden the family bears and how desperately they need help," said Liu Shusheng, chairman of the Jinan Disabled Persons' Federation in East China's Shandong Province.

"The disabled could be brothers or sisters of your best friends, your husband or wife, or even yourself one day."

The help offered by Jinan residents has greatly eased the lives of the city's 250,000 disabled, since the city started a project called "My Brothers and Sisters in Our Community" in 2002.

Although born blind, Yuan Guoping, 27, can see bright future ahead with the help of his community in the Shunyulu residential district.

Yuan has had to depend on family support for years. He then started earning some money after learning massage skills and working in a massage shop.

Yuan wanted to open his own massage shop, but was held back due to a lack of funds.

But things came together last year thanks to the support of his neighbourhood committee, which gave Yuan 2,000 yuan (US$240) to start the business and low rent.

"The members of my neighbourhood treat me like s family member and many of them are regular clients," Yuan said.

After the shop opened, Yuan married a local woman who is also blind and a masseuse. She is pregnant and the couple are expecting a child in autumn.

To arouse more public awareness of the plight of the disabled, the city has also established a disabled persons' art troupe. Known as "My Brothers and Sisters," it has performed seven large shows in the past two years.

Thousands of audience members have been touched by the spirit and ability of the performers.

The shows have helped raise more than 3 million yuan (US$360,000) each year - about five times more than funds the city raised for disabled people before.

Registered late last year with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce as a trademark, "My Brothers and Sisters" has also branched out to yield famous artworks such as paintings and paper cuttings, successful art shows and even established convenience shops.

Thanks to funds raised by the project, more than 1,000 disabled people have had free operations or been fitted with artificial limbs. More than 100 poverty-stricken disabled people have moved into new houses, 33 rehabilitation rooms for the disabled have been built and hundreds of disabled youngsters are now attending school.

Disabled people are still one of the most vulnerable groups in society, with thousands unemployed and poverty rates higher than the national average, said Deng Pufang from the China Disabled Persons' Federation.

Move for a better future

However, the government has pledged continuous effort to help the country's disabled share equal development opportunities with their able-bodied counterparts and achieve greater personal wealth.

Nearly 500 million yuan (US$60 million) has been donated to China's disabled in the past two decades, federation statistics show.

The money was chiefly used for rehabilitation, education and training, poverty alleviation, and employment, said Deng, who won a United Nation's Prize last year in the field of human rights.

"The work of the federation revolves around policy and advocacy, education and research, access and civil rights, and leadership and justice. But, really, at its core, it's about the people."

The Chinese Government has earmarked 600 million yuan (US$72.55 million) for the handicapped from 2003 to 2005, to help guarantee a better future.

In addition, China will allocate 100 million yuan (US$12.05 million) each year for the 2008 Paralympic Games from 2006 to 2008. And the construction of infrastructure for the disabled is progressing smoothly throughout the country.

"In one sentence, the development of disabled people should be parallel to that of others in China," Deng said.

(China Daily 05/20/2004 page5)

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