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Across China: Barrier-free renovations make life easier for disabled

CHANGSHA, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Xu Jingzhuo, 61, has been confined to a wheelchair since he lost his legs in an accident 34 years ago.

A physically challenged life brought immense difficulty for Xu to do regular chores such as cooking, taking a shower and hanging out the laundry, among others. But, thanks to a barrier-free renovation plan, the problems that once plagued him have been solved to a great extent.

"The Changsha Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF) helped reconstruct my cooking bench to adjust its height so that I can cook while sitting in a wheelchair. A ceiling-mounted cloth hanger equipped with a hand crank has also been installed on the balcony. I can string my clothes by conveniently adjusting its height," said Xu, a resident of Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province.

"Other places in my apartment have also been renovated. The electric curtain allows me to operate it with remote control. The CDPF also helped install two removable handrails in my bathroom and adjusted the washbasin to a lower height allowing me to wash my hands and brush my teeth in a wheelchair," he said.

Xu is now capable of taking good care of himself. He has also signed up as a community volunteer. "Many public places such as parks, public toilets and subways are equipped with barrier-free facilities, which makes it very convenient for us to travel alone," he said.

China accounts for 15 percent of the world's disabled people, with the population of this special group reaching 85 million. A barrier-free environment allows them to live a normal life and integrate into society better.

In recent years, authorities across the country have reached out to disabled households with tailored solutions, making public infrastructure and their apartments more accessible.

As of last year, more than 81 percent of the entrances and exits, nearly 57 percent of the service counters and about 39 percent of the public toilets in the comprehensive service facilities of villages (communities) in China had undergone barrier-free constructions and renovations, according to a white paper titled "Moderate Prosperity in All Respects: Another Milestone Achieved in China's Human Rights."

From 2016 to 2020, a total of 650,000 impoverished families with severe disabilities in China had benefitted from barrier-free renovations.

Hu Minghui and Fan Chuanxiang, who live in Changsha's Tianxin District, had trouble obtaining timely information and reading stuff online owing to their visual impairment. But, life has become convenient after the CDPF installed a screen reader, a software program that allows blind and low-vision individuals to read the content on a computer screen with a voice synthesizer or braille display.

The couple can now access all kinds of information on the internet by using the keyboard. Fan, who loves singing, records her own songs and shares them in messaging groups.

"Screen reader is like 'eyes' for the visually impaired, with the help of which we can communicate and chat online just like normal people, and shop online without leaving home," Hu said.

From 2010 to 2020, the CDPF spent more than 43 million yuan (about 6.7 million U.S. dollars) in barrier-free reconstruction works for more than 7,200 impoverished families with disabilities, fully covering all those in need. A total of 15.6 million yuan was spent on improving accessibility in 78 residential communities.

Changsha has also set up a service center called the "Changsha House of Hope" for disabled people to provide them entrepreneurship and employment, rehabilitation, and incubation training.


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