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Proposal to help disabled get behind the wheel

(China Daily)

14:07, January 28, 2013

Chen Ruhuang, 40, of Fuding, Fujian province, loves the feeling of freedom that comes with driving a car.

Chen, who uses a wheelchair because his legs are paralyzed, said his province has no driving schools for the disabled so he had to go to one in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, last year. The trips and lessons cost him more than 10,000 yuan ($1,600).

"I enjoy sitting behind the wheel, but the process of getting a drivers license is very awkward," Chen said.

The problem faced by Chen and many other disabled people in the province has been noticed by Liu Jiawei, vice-president of the Fujian Association of Persons with Physical Disability and a political advisor in Fuzhou, Fujian.

On Saturday, at the plenary meeting of the Fujian Committee of the China's political advisory body, Liu submitted a proposal to establish more driving schools especially for the disabled.

Liu spent more than three months preparing for the proposal, speaking with groups of disabled people in cities across the province. He found the desire to learn to drive is strong.

"Many disabled people want to be able to drive to make life more convenient for themselves and their families," Liu said.

The first disabled person to obtain C2 (a license to drive only vehicles with automatic transmissions and no more than nine seats) license in Fujian, Liu said disabled people won't get any special treatment during the driving test because of the disability.

"Instead, they have to put more energy into practicing. The previous tests were more difficult for them, not to mention the new driver's license tests, which took effect on Jan 1, increased the difficulty of the driving skills portion," Liu said.

A 2006 government survey showed there were more than 83 million disabled people in China. No statistics were available for the number of people qualified to drive or the number of driving licenses issued to disabled people.

However, having insufficient driving schools for the disabled is common in China, according to Liu's research.

More than 2.2 million disabled people live in Fujian, yet the province has only two driving schools capable of serving them, Liu said. Only about 100 disabled people have driving licenses in the province, he added.

In 2010, the Ministry of Public Security issued a revised rule on driver's license applications for the disabled.

People whose right leg or both legs are disabled, who were previously forbidden to drive, can obtain driver's licenses. The revision also covers people who are hearing-impaired or have no right thumb.

Most people with disabilities can apply for C1 or C2 licenses (C1 permits driving automatic or manual transmission vehicles with nine or fewer seats), which enable them to drive standard cars. People with two disabled legs, however, must obtain a C5 license, which requires a specially equipped automatic transmission car.

"To teach disabled students, the driving school must refit cars, and the auxiliary devices usually cost thousands of yuan," said an instructor surnamed Lin at Junwei Driving School in Fuzhou.

"The school also has to have different teaching programs for people with different disabilities. The complexity and the cost of the modified cars contributed to schools' reluctance to enroll disabled students," Lin said.

To cope with the monetary issue, Liu suggested in the proposal that disabled people's federations in cities across the province should provide funds to refit cars.

He also suggested transport authorities in each city should offer help with the instruction programs for people with different disabilities.

Chen Zhen, secretary general of the Fujian Disabled Persons' Federation, said the plan will enrich the lives of the disabled and boost their self-confidence.

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