(This news story originally appeared on the Wired blog, with credit to be given to BA Haller over at the Media and Disability blog.)
Snapshot of Beijing subway station with a train in the station. In the foreground, the viewer sees a wheelchair symbol on the platform indicating an accessible entrance and exit. ST
In what may be the most significant improvement in human rights brought about by the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics, Beijing has become less of a Forbidden City for the disabled. Even though more than one million disabled people live within its city limits, Beijing’s crowded subway was practically inaccessible to anyone not able to rush to the front of the platform on their own two feet. Now, according to the official Chinese government information site china.org.cn, the improvements made in preparation for the Games will become permanent, allowing disabled riders to travel without barriers.
“I can’t believe this is true. Three hours ago I was at home, and now I’m here with all these others watching Paralympic Games competitions,” randomly-selected wheelchair-bound Beijing citizen Wang Shufen said. “The volunteers and subway and bus workers were really helpful. Without them, I would never have made it.” Of course, China.org.cn made sure to note that the 70-year-old Wang was smiling all through her interview, and never mentioned whether she lived ten feet or ten miles from the stadium. Still, for a city that banned the country’s few guide dogs and disqualified the disabled from entrance to many schools, any effort to open the city’s transit infrastructure to the disabled is a welcome change.
BEIJING – Valerie Grand’Maison got Canada off to a flying start at the Paralympics, leading a podium sweep in the 100-metre butterfly for the visually impaired on the opening day of competition.
Cyclist Jean Quevillon captured Canada’s first medal of the Games earlier in the day, a bronze in the men’s individual pursuit for cerebral palsy athletes.
Grand’Maison, from Longueuil, Que., Kirby Cote of Winnipeg and Chelsea Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., finished 1-2-3 in the butterfly. The 19-year-old Grand’Maison clocked a Canadian record one minute 6.49 seconds in her Games debut, less than a second off the 12-year-old world record.
“I’m so happy, I’m speechless right now,” said Grand’Maison, who won five gold medals at the 2006 world championships. “It’s a dream come true. Every single morning I have thought about winning Paralympic gold and it has now finally happened. “And it was extra special to share the podium with my teammates. It’s a proud moment for us.”
I’d be curious what readers think about the above video of bionic athlete Oscar Pistorius, obviously made before the most recent decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which Gregor Wolbring has discussed in earlier posts on the blog, including here. Anyone know where the video comes from? Who do you think the basic message is? What does it say about the Olympics? What does it mean to you? The thread for comments is open.
DISABLED people can be unsocial, stubborn, controlling, and defensive according to an official Beijing Olympics guide. The Olympic manual for volunteers in Beijing is peppered with patronising comments, noting for example that physically disabled people are “often” mentally healthy……
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