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A sign of things to come?
By Wang Shanshan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-20 06:34

SHANGHAI: Nurses at five major hospitals in Shanghai have become the first in the country to learn sign language.

"I was getting ready to write about my aching abdomen on a piece of paper when suddenly a middle-aged nurse asked me in sign language what was wrong," said Wang Yunchang, 47, a local deaf man who visited the Shanghai No 8 People's Hospital on Monday.

"It was the first time I saw a doctor without a hitch."

Nurse Xue Xiuyong has communicated with about 15 profoundly deaf or speech-impaired patients.Wang's communicative skills have come about thanks to a sign language training programme that was launched two months ago.

The programme, put on by the Xuhui District Health Bureau, involves 20 nurses from five local hospitals.

Sources with the bureau say the programme will be run regularly, with another 30 to be trained as soon as the first 20 graduate next week.

"I applied for the programme because I have often found these people in awkward situations in the emergency room where I am working. They are always making signs trying to explain their feelings, but are rarely understood," Xue said.

"We at the emergency room provide them with pen and paper, but it often happens that patients with these disabilities can't express themselves clearly in writing. Difficult communication costs precious time and occasionally leads to wrong diagnoses," she added.

Signs saying "what's wrong with you," "when did the pain start" and "are you married" have proved to be the most useful at an emergency room, as Xue found out.

"The deaf and speech-impaired I have met were all suffering from ordinary physical pain such as stomach aches or a sprained ankle. I have never seen among them a single case of being injured in a car accident, or having been fighting- they seem to be more careful in life," said Xue.

In another move to help the disabled, feasibility studies are being carried out on building a radio system for the blind on buses and at bus stops around Shanghai.

When the system is installed, blind people can wear earphones to be guided onto the right bus and to the right stop, say sources with the municipal public transport authorities.

(China Daily 05/20/2005 page3)

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