Promotion of sports beneficial to people with disabilities

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A passenger in a wheelchair uses accessibility equipment at a Beijing subway station on March 1, 2022. [Photo for CHINA DAILY]

From promoting social awareness to building more accessible infrastructure, the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games have facilitated the development of projects that will help people with disabilities live more fulfilling lives, said Zhang Haidi, president of China Disabled Persons Federation.

In a March 6 meeting with national policy advisers on agriculture, welfare and social security, during the two annual sessions, President Xi Jinping said that when it comes to welfare of the people, no matter what is trivial. He added that it is important to pay special attention to people living in difficult circumstances and help them solve their problems.

Zhang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told China Daily that the Paralympic Winter Games have encouraged more people with disabilities to play sports, and it makes them healthier, happier and more included in society.

When China was preparing to bid for the 2022 Winter Games, it had fewer than 50 Paralympic-trained athletes, she said. Now the list has grown to over 1,000, covering all six sports, from para snowboarding to para alpine skiing.

“I remember in 1984 when our athletes first competed in the Paralympic Games, there were no training facilities for them. Some of them could only practice swimming in the rivers in their hometown or playing table tennis on a table made of bricks,” Zhang said.

Today, there are 45 para-athlete training centers across China and an administrative center dedicated to managing para-sports, she said. With these state-of-the-art athletics, basketball, swimming and winter sports training facilities, Chinese para-athletes can consistently perform at international events.

Zhang said she often visits para-athletes training for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, and it’s not hard to feel proud and moved by their efforts.

Some winter sports require these athletes to train at low temperatures for hours. “It’s an extremely demanding task due to their disability. Some of them had lost their arms, legs or sight, but they all have a strong desire to achieve sporting excellence and show their strength. ‘spirit,’ she said.

Besides the athletes in the spotlight, there are also many “unsung heroes” behind the scenes, such as coaches and staff, she said.

Scientists and engineers built an accessible environment with meticulous attention to detail, from designing service counters at the right height to delivering information using sign language supported by artificial intelligence.

“All of these designs are meant to serve para-athletes, and I hope these athletes around the world will feel comfortable, comfortable, and loved in Beijing, just like at home,” Zhang said.

Today, parasports have become an integral part of the work of the disabled in China, she said. “Athletes with disabilities overcome obstacles and bravely forge new lives. It’s a spirit that tells us that no obstacle is insurmountable, and the key to success is determination.”

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