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Offering disabled people meaningful employment

By Xinhua | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-31 07:56

A pair of disabled entrepreneurs in Southwest China's Guizhou province are offering hope and employment to others who share their predicament.

Ma Zhiguo, 52, lost four fingers on his right hand at age 19 while operating a machine that made coal briquettes.

He met 39-year-old Shi Kunjie, who lost his eyesight at age 11, at a conference for disabled people in 2012. "I used to make a living by selling vegetables and tofu at the market after I lost my fingers. It was very hard," Ma said.

Inspired by an advertisement he saw on television, Ma asked Shi, who was employed as a blind massage therapist at the time, to be his partner in setting up a commercial laundry and pot washing business.

"More and more Chinese care about the sanitary conditions in hotels and restaurants. They want cleaner bedsheets and tableware. We do a good job," Ma said.

Supported by the local government, the pair were able to secure a 4 million yuan ($580,000) bank loan and raised a further 3 million themselves.

Construction of their two-story business began in 2015 on a barren piece of land near a sewage treatment plant, far from the closest residential area.

The company provides cleaning and disinfecting services for more than 300 restaurants and over 40 hotels and hospitals in Guizhou's Yuping Dong autonomous county. It has earned about 3 million yuan since operations began in February last year.

Among its 42 employees, 17 are disabled.

"Washing dishes or bedsheets does not take much skill. People can be qualified to work after a few simple training sessions," Shi said.

In the company's main building, a banner carrying the slogan "Your trust makes us work more diligently" hangs on the wall.

"Disabled people find it difficult to secure jobs. Many have to stay at home," said Wu Yongying, a dishwasher with an injured leg who lives in the company dormitory. He eats at its canteen for free and earns more than 2,000 yuan a month.

Yang Xinwen, 48, who is partially sighted, works for the business during the day and learns massage at night. "I don't feel tired as long as I have chance to work diligently," he said.

There are about 85 million people living with disabilities in China and about 70 percent are in rural areas.

Poverty among the disabled is not a new problem, and China has poured enormous resources into addressing it in recent years.

According to the local government, companies in Guizhou can be exempted from taxes if more than 25 percent of their employees are disabled.

Moreover, the local disability federation provided a 100,000-yuan subsidy to Ma and Shi's company last year. It also organizes annual training sessions to teach information technology skills to their disabled employees.

The next step for Ma and Shi will involve hosting recruitment tours to expand their business and hire more disabled employees. "We should not forget where we are from and where we are going," Shi said.

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