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Overcoming the odds, people with disabilities find business opportunities via the Internet

(Xinhua)

10:27, September 06, 2011

HANGZHOU, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Although they face a wide spectrum of obstacles, a rising number of people with disabilities are finding success, thanks to the work-from-home opportunities provided by the country's booming online shopping market.

Chen Xiaoliang, 32, has been paralyzed on his body's right side since he was 13 when he suffered a stroke. He was once mired in poverty but now is a self-made businessman running an online store in Shaoxing City, east Zhejiang Province.

Despite adversity, Chen took the initiative to alter his life by starting his own business. He borrowed an old computer from a friend, and after much practice became proficient in typing with his left hand.

With a loan from the Disabled Federation of Shaoxing City, Chen opened his online shop in 2006, selling health care products on Taobao.com, China's largest online marketplace.

"The shop has kept me busy all the time, and sometimes I cannot help but feel exhausted, but it's worth it," Chen said. "The business is good and, more importantly, it gives me a sense of fulfillment and self-confidence."

The store surpassed 4 million yuan in sales (626,340.75 U.S. Dollars) last year and has a three-diamond ranking on Taobao.com, which means it has successfully completed 3,000 deals.

"We've noticed an increasing number of people with disabilities working online," said Wang Kai, director of the department of social responsibility of Taobao Company. "For people with mobility problems, web businesses are a good alternative to the mainstream labor market."

"For people with disabilities, success of online business serves not only to fulfill their financial needs, but also, it helps them to regain their agility, vitality and self-confidence," said Luo Runfa, an entrepreneur with disability in Shaoxing City.

Born with Fragililis ossium, a rare genetic disease that causes frequent fractures and bones atrophies, the 48-year-old Luo is less than one meter tall.

Luo opened a computer training school in 1995, and the school has won him fame and fortune during the past 16 years.

In 2008, Luo entrusted his school to his subordinates and turned to the Internet to explore new possibilities. He opened an online shop on Taobao.com, selling yellow rice wine, a local specialty of Shaoxing City.

Currently, Luo' s store employs nine workers, among whom five have disabilities. "Hopefully, after a few years of expansion, I can provide more jobs for people with disabilities," Luo said.

Compared with able-bodied people, those with disabilities have some advantages in doing online business because many physically challenged people develop high levels of patience, determination and are quick witted, Luo said.

"But people with disabilities remain a vulnerable group who are in need of help from society when doing web business," Luo said.

Wang Kai said that many people with disabilities who are involved in online business lack professional knowledge and operational capacity.

To cater to the great demand of people with disabilities and other disadvantaged people, such as the elderly and the poor, Taobao provides free training projects and preferential policies, according to Wang.

People with disabilities can apply for free advertising tools that can help them save up to 400 yuan every month in advertising, and there are 3,831 entrepreneurs with disabilities who are granted this service.

At the present, Taobao is giving free entrepreneurial training courses to disadvantaged people in ten cities of the country. Among the 10,000 people who are currently covered by this project, about 30 to 40 percent have disabilities.

"Online shopping is opening a new world of opportunities for those with disabilities, and hopefully, more and more will not only be able to make a living but also be able to make a fortune through the Internet," Wang said.

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