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Shanghai to Breaks down Barriers for People with Mobility Problems
Shanghai will invest 500 million yuan (US$60.5 million) in the coming four years to remove physical and other barriers in the city for people with mobility problems.

"It is a common misunderstanding that only the disabled will benefit from the project," said Zhang Guoliang, director of the Policy and Regulation Research Center with the Municipal Disabled Persons Federation.

Shanghai is home not only to 520,000 disabled people but 2.47 million aged people, many of whom suffer mobility, hearing or reading problems. Pregnant women, the injured and even people carrying heavy loads also need help in their daily lives.

The federation, together with Shanghai Construction and Management Commission, has drafted the Shanghai Non-barrier Facilities Construction and Management Methods, which is expected to be issued at the start of 2003 to guide future construction in the city.

Old public buildings will be refurbished by adding entrance ramps, special lifts, lanes for the blind, specially equipped washrooms and other facilities designed to remove barriers.

The municipality has identified such refurbishments as one of their major tasks in 2003.

All new public buildings such as department stores, hotels, supermarkets, roads, wharfs and even residential complexes will have to take into consideration facilities for people with limited mobility.

"The range of facilities for disadvantaged groups reflects how civilized a city is," Zhang said. "It is crucial for Shanghai to smooth their way and usher in the Special Olympics in 2007."

At present, most of the 4,800 main roads, major scenic attractions and shopping streets in the city have been built with ramps to accommodate wheelchairs.

Bus operators have been encouraged to equip their buses with lifts to help the disabled.

The federation is also trying to break down communication barriers for people who are hearing- or sight-impaired.

Local broadcasters have been persuaded to add more programs with subtitles and sign language to serve people with hearing problems. And Shanghai Mobile has encouraged cellphone use among the deaf so they can exchange messages.

"The plan to remove barriers for the disabled actually dates back to late 1980s when the Ministry of Construction and the China Disabled Persons' Federation jointly issued a regulation," Zhang said.

"But progress so far has been unsatisfactory due to the slack implementation and the lack of financial back-up."

(China Daily December 20, 2002)

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