By Liu Botong, Dou Hao, People’s Daily
Creating a barrier-free environment is crucial for safeguarding the rights and interests of people with disabilities. It aims to guarantee their equal and convenient participation in various social activities.
The 4th Asian Para Games, hosted in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province, demonstrated its exceptional commitment to providing comprehensive accessibility for individuals with disabilities. It showcased its professional standards and attentive service by offering a wide range of barrier-free facilities both in and outside competition venues, including barrier-free ramps, barrier-free elevators, and barrier-free restrooms.
“The venue is great. We can move freely here,” said Chinese female wheelchair basketball player Huang Xiaolian, referring to the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium.
The needs of competitors and spectators of the Asian Para Games have been fully taken into consideration during the construction of the stadium, said Zhu Yizhi with the team operating the stadium.
After the Hangzhou Asian Games concluded, the stadium was soon converted to get ready for the Asian Para Games. To better facilitate wheelchair basketball players, the stadium was renovated to improve accessibility, adding ramps and modifying the locker rooms to appropriate heights, Zhu said.
It is learned that the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou has 19 competition venues distributed in eight competition zones, and 17 of them are converted from the Asian Games venues.
Barrier-free facilities can be found everywhere in the competition venues, including elevators with Braille buttons, accessible restrooms with voice guides and designated rest areas for guide dogs.
“From the entrances to functional areas of the venues, we have built a comprehensive and safe barrier-free environment,” said Chen Weiqiang, the chief spokesperson of the Hangzhou Asian Para Games.
In the restaurants of the Asian Para Games Village, high and low handrails have been installed along the walls, and Braille signs are posted. The height of the serving area has been adjusted so wheelchair users can easily access their meals. Additionally, the dishes ready for pickup are pre-plated, making it convenient for athletes to take them.
To provide a more comfortable living environment for athletes, the village has offered approximately 1,100 barrier-free beds. There are also various service areas in the village such as wheelchair charging stations and assistive device maintenance centers.
Inside the athletes’ rooms, multiple emergency call buttons are installed, along with collision protection strips, rounded-edge furniture, and barrier-free bathrooms, ensuring a safer and more comfortable living environment.
In the bedrooms, adjustable beds are provided to facilitate athletes in getting on and off the beds. Besides, for athletes who require assistance in their daily activities, the Asian Para Games Village has provided companion beds.
The barrier-free environment in Hangzhou is continuously improving, not only in terms of the Asian Para Games facilities, but also throughout the city.
“The society is becoming more and more friendly towards people with disabilities, and I feel very happy about it,” said a Hangzhou resident surnamed Zhang.
Zhang, who needs to travel in a wheelchair for many years, has become more enthusiastic about outdoor activities as Hangzhou’s barrier-free environment continues to improve. “Now, I have the option to travel by subway, barrier-free buses, or barrier-free taxis, and the overall experience is significantly better,” she said.
For example, at the customer service counter of a shopping mall in Hangzhou’s Linping district, an electronic dictionary can translate speech into sign language, and wheelchairs for rent are placed on the side of the desk. The mall is also equipped with accessible elevators, barrier-free signs, and other facilities, making it convenient for people with disabilities.
According to reports, in recent years, Hangzhou has made great efforts to promote the development of a barrier-free environment. The city has upgraded over 140,000 barrier-free facilities and important public venues, improved accessibility on 75 roads, and built over 3,000 kilometers of sidewalks with blind paths, 1,600 accessible public restrooms, and 3,500 accessible bus stops.
More than 380 sign language service points have been set up. Hundreds of accessible taxis are now running on the streets of the city, and five barrier-free tourism routes have been launched focusing on World Cultural Heritage sites.
“The Hangzhou Asian Para Games is not only a major sporting event, but also an important opportunity to showcase the warmth and inclusiveness of the city,” said Chen. “We will make Hangzhou a caring city with barrier-free environment construction,” he added.