Business / Industries

China's disabled enjoy e-commerce boom

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-05-21 15:43

HANGZHOU - More and more physically disabled people in China have found ways to join the country's "get rich" rush, which could have left them behind if not for the Internet.

According to sources with Taobao, the country's largest e-commerce platform, more than 30,000 disabled people across the country are managing online stores at

Gu Linglei is one such online store manager. The 28-year-old native of Hangzhou was blinded at birth, but he is no different from many others selling earphones and mobile phone top-up cards on the e-commerce platform.

Gu has to rely on screen-reading software to communicate with customers, but business is brisk. To date, he has clinched about 4,000 deals online and his store is rated a "4-diamond" -- a credit given to trust-worthy stores by Taobao.

Gu said the business idea hit in 2009 when, aided by a screen reader, he started to feel comfortable with online shopping and wanted to "try something new," and maybe earn a living for himself.

"I like the Internet because it is open, convenient, and equal for all," the young man said.

Gu said the Internet's role as a great equalizer has been a blessing for him.

"We have to admit that there is still discrimination against the disabled in getting a proper job. Sometimes we are being looked at differently," said blind Paralympic champion Yang Bozun. "The Internet, somehow, provides an easy solution."

Official statistics show that China currently has 85 million people with some form of disability. Last year, the government issued a five-year blueprint for improving the lives of the disabled, setting a target that the average disabled person could live a moderately wealthy life by 2015.

Job creation is among the key efforts the government has pledged. In 2011, about 31,800 urban jobs were created for the disabled.

While the government has been working hard to boost employment rates, the Internet is helping with striking efficiency.

China has about 500 million Internet users, making it the world's largest Internet population, and the government expects trade on e-commerce platforms to hit 18 trillion yuan ($2.86 trillion) by 2015, compared to 4.5 trillion yuan in 2010.

Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on Sunday urged continuous efforts in helping the disabled live happy, dignified lives.

Meng Hongwei, a farmer who uses a wheelchair, managed to sell thousands of heads of livestock online from his home village in Shandong Province. Last year, Meng was thrilled to get a business call from Dubai, asking him to send 500 cows and 3,000 sheep to the Persian Gulf.

"I need interpreters for my business now," said Meng, the first in his village to buy a computer and wire it to the Internet. "My fellow villagers thought I was crazy then. But without the Internet, I could hardly have as good of a life as I enjoy now."

However, disabled people working behind computer screens are not just vendors.

Taobao launched a job facilitation program for the disabled last year, offering call center jobs that allow the disabled to handle customer calls at home.

There are also people who provide psychological counseling through the Internet and a telephone hotline.

"An ordinary person may feel isolated from real life if they spend too much time online," Gu said. "But for us, the Internet opens a door, allowing us to get closer to real life."

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