People with disabilities call for better access to city public transport

Asia-Pacific, August 14 2011

Beijing, China: The departure station on the ticket reads “full price” and the destination “half price”.

The 1-meter-long handmade ticket was displayed in front of the Ministry of Railways by a disabled man to highlight the fact that Beijing lags well behind many other Chinese cities that have introduced favorable measures to make public transport accessible for people with disabilities.

Compared with cities such as Shenzhen, in which people with all kinds of disabilities can us public transport for free, Beijing has a long way to go to catch up, said Ruan Luming, a middle-aged woman with disabilities, who sued the Beijing metro company on July 26 for charging her full price.

“It is regulated by the country’s law on the protection of disabled persons, which was amended in April 2008, that I can enjoy a disability discount,” said Ruan. “But I find that many local departments don’t take the law seriously.”

Wu Runling, founder of the Huitianyu Center, a Beijing-based NGO for disabled people, said the city can easily afford to waive the transportation fees completely for people with physical disabilities.

“In 2009 the per capita GDP of Beijing exceeded $10,000. And among the 1 million disabled citizens in Beijing, only 380,000 have registered and obtained the disability certificates,” he said.

People with disabilities in China are required to show their certificates to staff members if they want to receive any disability discounts or benefits.

Ruan said that the disability discounts have a negligible impact on the revenues of the transport companies but are a big benefit to disabled people

“Due to their disabilities, and access to education and jobs, people with disabilities often belong to low-income groups, and we generally suffer a greater financial burden than other people,”Ruan said.

According to a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2007, the per capita income of families with disabled members in urban areas was 4,864 yuan ($760), and for rural families it was 2,260 yuan. Both are less than half of the national average.

However, Xu Jiacheng, director of the school of special education under the Beijing Union University, said that it is the “protection of the rights of disabled people” not the discounts themselves that are at the heart of the issue.

“To encourage more people with disabilities to integrate into society, the first thing to be done is to enable them to step out of their families,” said Xu.

He also said that disabled people in China do not have enough access to barrier-free facilities, and that society is not very welcoming of them.

“There used to be lots of warm-hearted individuals that would offer a helping hand to disabled people on street when the Olympic Games were held in Beijing, but now there are not so many people,” Xu said.

China has 83 million disabled people, among whom 24.12 million have physical disabilities, according to official statistics.

To raise public awareness of people with physical disabilities, the China Disabled Persons’ Federation in 2010 approved the observance of Persons with Physical Disabilities Day, which falls on Aug 11 every year.


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