China's visually impaired hike into desert

Updated: 2010-09-13 17:01
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YINCHUAN - A group of 21 visually impaired Chinese have joined an excursion into a desert in the northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, in a project to involve more disabled people in outdoor activities.

The hikers, accompanied by volunteers and local guides, entered the Tengger Desert in Zhongwei City Monday morning. They walked about a kilometer, feeling for the sand and desert plants as their guides explained what was around.

"For me, it's a dream that has come true," said Shen Zhonghua, a native of Zhongwei City, who lives near the desert, but never dared to make the trip on his own.

Shen, 37, suffered retinal detachment and lost his eyesight completely in 1995. "Though we walked just a short distance, it's a hard-won chance for people like me to feel the charm of the desert."

The hikers were also invited to go camel riding in the desert and to a raft tour on the Yellow River, China's second longest waterway, which flows past Ningxia.

The event, the first of its kind, was sponsored by China's Disabled Persons' Federation.

"It's aimed at sending a positive signal to the visually impaired that they, too, can step into society and 'see' the wide world," said federation vice-chairman Li Zhijun.

He said China's 83 million disabled all needed more outdoor activities and improved social lives.