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Beijing Enables Barrier-free Shopping, Touring atop Great Wall

Beijing's must-go tourist attractions have been turned accessible for the disabled, as the city woos athletes and visitors to the Paralympic Games and fulfills its pledge to give normal life to its 1 million disabled population.

"We saw more disabled people make shopping here recently, as the Paralympics drew near," said Zhu Maimai, a saleswoman at the Silk Street Market in Beijing.

The popular clothes market now has a 160-meter blind road leading to the entrance way and 16 parking slots for disabled shoppers.

Zhu said that salespeople in the market had been trained to give considerate but not too intense service to disabled customers, since too much care would make the disabled feel uncomfortable

"There are over 100 road signs in the shopping market. We also have receptionists at the service desk, who can use sign language to give shopping guide," said Wang Zili, the market's general manager.

Disabled access to Beijing's most famous part of the Great Wall includes two lifts and a wheelchair ramp to ascend people to the Badaling section, which allows one of the best views of the man-made wonder meandering on mountain ridges.

In the 600-year-old Palace Museum, or the Forbidden City, a 1,000-meter long barrier-free pathway allow visitors on wheelchairs go down along the central axis of the palace.

Elevators have been installed in three main buildings in the imperial palace to avoid disabled people from climbing thirty steps to reach top layers for a bird view.

For the past few years, the municipal government has invested about 67 million yuan (10 million U.S. dollars) for building barrier-free facilities in 60 tourist attractions, where 12,028 square meters of wheelchair ramps were built and 3,183 meters of handrail were facilitated.

Tang Xiaoquan, executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games said that the work on barrier-free facilities enables the disabled persons from home and abroad to learn more about the social progress of Beijing.

Tang, who is also a senior official of the China Disabled Persons' Federation said that Beijing will add 16 bus routes leading to the Games venues, and put 400 disable-access buses in use during the September 6-17 Games, which will draw about 4,000 disabled athletes from around the world to compete.

(Xinhua News Agency August 30, 2008)

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