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Portuguese pair score a first
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08:57, September 04, 2008

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· Paralympics
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Portuguese athletes Carlos Manuel Lopes and Firmino Baptisia have already scored a first.

When the two visited the Silk Market on Friday, a popular shopping center for Chinese silk, artifacts, clothes, and electronics, their Labrador guide dogs were the first to be allowed into the premises.

"It was the first time I had seen such big dogs, but they were cute," Zhu Jing, a shop assistant who had attended to the visitors, said on Tuesday.

Big dogs are normally forbidden in public places especially shops and restaurants in Beijing because they could cause fear in people.

The presence of the dogs at the marketplace represents a major change as shops learn how to welcome and cater to disabled customers.

The Beijing Daily said yesterday 235 shops in the city had taken measures to provide a better shopping environment for people suffering from disabilities.

The move includes building ramps, lowering cashier counters and allowing guide dogs.

At the Silk Market, there is a special path leading to its entrance for disabled people, and 16 reserved parking spaces.

Han Yongguang, general manager of Mansion Guiyou Co Ltd, a premium department store in Beijing's embassy and business district, said all four of its outlets have been renovated, including the leveling of pavements, and training shop assistants on how to serve disabled customers.

However, he said some customers may have difficulty with the washrooms because they were built in the 1980s and would require major reconstruction.

"However, it is a good lesson. We need to change our mindset and really think about how to serve all customers, be their foreigners or Chinese," he said.

Yesterday was also the first day souvenirs of the Paralympic Games went on sale.

Gongmei Mansion on Wangfujing Street decorated its store with posters of the Paralympic Games, and focused on sale of the souvenirs.

One of its four cashier counters was specially reserved for disabled customers.

The Silk Market's Zhu said he had seen about a dozen disabled customers since Friday.

Beijing's bureau of commerce said that during the Olympic Games, Aug 8 to 24, the total average sales of 193 retailers was 190 million yuan per day, 17 percent higher than for the same period last year.

However, in spite of all the preparations, the shopping spree has yet to begin.

A security guard surnamed Zhou, stationed at Gongmei, said he only observed one customer in a wheelchair on Tuesday morning.

In the past month, the daily average number of visitors to Gongmei has been 80,000.

Source: China Daily

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