Across China: Barrier-free designs to support more people in need

The Yalu River Park in the city of Dandong, northeast China’s Liaoning Province, welcomed a group of special guests. Unlike most visitors looking for a glimpse of the DPRK-China border across the Yalu River, they came to test the newly built barrier-free designs of the park.

Among the guests are some wheelchair users and visually impaired people who acted as the first users of the facilities to help the park better accommodate the special needs of special needs groups.

“The barrier-free environment meets the basic needs of the special needs groups such as the disabled and the elderly,” said Wen Qiuyan with the Dandong’s Disabled Person’s Federation.

Wen said citywide barrier-free restrooms and stairlifts for wheelchair users have been upgraded, and measures have also been taken to ensure crosswalks are safer for blind pedestrians. In addition, braille signs are available in more public places.

Dandong’s ongoing upgrading of barrier-free facilities is a response to a nationwide call on improving the mechanisms for ensuring the rights and interests of persons with disabilities.

China now has around 85 million people with disabilities, according to a white paper on the country’s efforts to protect the rights and interests of disabled persons.

Cities in China have started upgrading relevant policies and standards and improved the accessibility of urban and rural public facilities, information and services for those in need since the release of a set of regulations in 2012.

The coastal city of Dalian, a popular tourist destination in northeast China, is among the first cities to upgrade its barrier-free infrastructure in its airport to cope with the difficulties facing physically challenged people in areas of parking, passageway, public transportation and service.

“We’ve discussed with experts and planned the renovation of the airport’s facilities for disabled persons down to the smallest detail,” said Su Yong in charge of the airport’s passenger service department.

Governments across the country have also reached out to disabled households with tailored solutions, making their apartments friendly toward those who are physically disabled or cognitively impaired.

According to the white paper, 1,702 cities and counties in China have started efforts on creating a barrier-free environment.

“For people with disabilities, the facilities serve as their eyes, ears, arms and legs as they are encouraged to actively participate in social life,” said Zhang Changdong with the Liaoning’s Disabled Person’s Federation.