The Great Wall, the Palace Museum, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace - these are just a few of the 60 tourist attractions in Beijing that will be made accessible to disabled tourists in time for the 2008 Olympics, officials said.
Experts have worked out a plan to ease access to the Great Wall, the most challenging of the city's efforts to create a friendly environment for disabled tourists.
"A sloping path will be built to allow wheelchairs to reach the platform of the first beacon tower at the Badaling section of the Great Wall. The work will not do any harm to the Great Wall itself," Wang Fengbin, an official with the Yanqing county tourism bureau, said yesterday on the sidelines of a tourism working conference.
Work on the ramp is already under way and the sloping path should be ready for use by next May, he said.
At the moment, people in wheelchairs have to be carried up the Great Wall.
"At least six young men must take turns to carry a person in a wheelchair up to the beacon tower," Song Yuhong, a representative of the Association of Inter-Aiding Between the Disabled & Abled in Yuhua District, Shijiazhuang, capital city of Hebei Province, said.
Song and other volunteers helped four disabled people from her city visit the Great Wall last month.
"They (the four disabled people) were very grateful, but seeing the volunteers sweating as they struggled up the wall also made them feel uncomfortable," she said. "This is good news to them."
Other developments aimed at assisting the disabled include lowering at least one window at ticket offices, and outfitting toilets, dining halls and stores with ramps and handles.
Sixty tourist attractions in Beijing have all made similar efforts to create a convenient environment for disabled tourists.
This accounts for the majority of the capital's most popular tourist sites, or those that receive at least 100,000 foreign tourists and 1 million domestic tourists a year, according to the Beijing tourism administration.
The improvements are part of a project the municipal government first announced last year. It also includes standardizing signage in the city.
The government has spent 75.7 million yuan ($10.3 million) on such alterations so far, An Jinming, deputy director of the administration, said.
The administration will also assist the Bank of China in installing more cash machines at scenic spots. Almost all shops and dining halls at these attractions will accept credit cards by August, he said.