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Paralympics to conclude, care for the disabled never ends
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19:24, September 16, 2008

When his disabled students, including some mentally-impaired ones, said "welcome to our 'Sweet Home'" in English to visiting para-athletes on the Mid-Autumn Day on Sept. 14, Jiao Shi felt quite satisfied.

"I'm deeply moved as some of them, who are not quick-learners, kept practicing after the class," Jiao said.

He has been teaching the disabled persons English in a community in south Beijing's Fengtai District for several times during the Paralympics.

Jiao, 23, a teacher with a foreign languages training company, worked as a city volunteer in the district to provide language service for foreign visitors after local disabled persons federation asked him whether he'd like to provide some English training for the disabled at the "Sweet Home", a community care and rehabilitation center.

He went there alone for the first time, and began to bring his volunteer friends with him.

Their classes on simple daily English attracted about 20 disabled students every time.

"Most of the time, we just talk with them about their daily life in Chinese. We are actually there to accompany them as many of the disabled, especially the youth, are eager to make friends," Jiao said.

He said the Paralympics gave him an opportunity to get close to the disabled, to understand them and to help them.

"My friends and I will continue to teach them after the Paralympics," Jiao said, adding that he wanted to extend the training to other communities.

Spyros Stavrianopoulos, president of the Greek Paralympic Committee, which successfully hosted the 2004 Paralympics, said on Sept. 8 that the Paralympics brings the society closer to the disabled.

"The most important is Paralympic Games brings society close to the disabled, and improves the social recognition of the disabled," said the president.

The president believes the same thing will happen in China.

It is happening.

In the seven-year run-up to the Games, tens of thousands of barrier-free facilities, including ramp, blind walkway, voice prompt system and guidance handrail, were put in place, while parking lots, public transit stations, elevators and public toilets were renovated to improve accessibility for the disabled. The changes took place not only at Games venues, but also tourist attractions such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

Wen Ge, chairman of "Zhang Hua Green Home", a self-help organization of the disabled in Renqiu City of north China's Hebei Province, has tried the barrier-free facilities in Beijing during the Paralympics on the invitation of a Beijing-based non-governmental organization.

Wen, who uses a wheelchair, made some suggestions about the improvement to current facilities, including the Tongrentang, a famous Chinese traditional medicine pharmacy, should lower its counter to provide convenience to the people in wheelchairs.

"The suggestions will be handed in to the China Disabled Persons' Federation by the organization," Wen said.

She also went to the Bird's Nest to watch the opening ceremony with the help of a local oil company, which also provided tickets of the Paralympic events for another 18 disabled people in the "Green Home".

"I'm happy to see that the whole society, from state leaders to general public, began to pay more and more attention to the disabled," she said, adding that she believed the care for disabled people won't end after the Paralympics.

However, she said building barrier-free facilities is the first step of helping the disabled with their integration into the society. What's more important is to help them get rid of the "psychological barriers".

"The society should understand what help we really need, and meanwhile the disabled should take the good opportunity to improve ourselves," Wen said.

Source: Xinhua

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