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Forbidden City Opens Disabled Tourist Paths

Disabled tourists now have better access to Beijing's famous Forbidden City following extensive renovations. New facilities were opened on Sunday to mark National Help-the-disabled Day.

"This is an excellent example of how Beijing and China intends to advance accessibility for all people in the years to come," said Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

"Chinese people are making unbelievable efforts in Sichuan to relieve the suffering caused by the earthquake disaster. Paralympians from all over the world are with you, with all of the Chinese people."

The Forbidden City has numerous stone steps and thresholds, which are distinguishing features of traditional Chinese architecture, but had restricted access for disabled people.

The famous landmark now has three barrier-free tourist routes covering the main scenic spots. About 1,000 m long, the main route runs from Wumen (Meridian Gate) in the south to Shenwumen (Gate of Spiritual Valor) in the north.

With the help of the newly installed elevators, wheelchair-bound people can ascend Wumen Tower avoiding nearly 100 steps. At Taihedian, Zhonghedian and Baohedian, wheelchair stair lifts are available to help people with physical disabilities climb the stairs.

"The barrier-free facilities and the ancient architecture in the Forbidden City complement each other, which embodies the concept of the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games - Transcendence, Equality and Integration," said Li Ji, vice director of the Forbidden City.

China's golden girl of the torch relay, Jin Jing, who was attacked by protestors in Paris but refused to let go of the sacred flame, also praised the new facilities.

"I'm really looking forward to experiencing a barrier-free Forbidden City, and today is my first time to visit here," she told China Daily while walking with her crutch on Wumen Square.

(China Daily May 19, 2008)

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