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Beijing paves way for the needy
( 2001-11-27 00:46 ) (1 )

Beijing plans to create a barrier-free environment to enable the disabled, elderly and children to get around the city much more conveniently within the next year.

A specific plan has been drafted but still awaits approval from the municipal government, according to An Xinmin, an official with the municipal government.

Compared to some advanced countries, China has not shown the same commitment in aiding children, the elderly and disabled.

The capital has made some efforts in these fields but the result has not been satisfactory.

For example, downtown Beijing has at least 300 kilometres of walkways for the blind, 2,500 barrier-free crossings and nearly 40 flyovers and pedestrian tunnels with sloping paths.

However, artificially imposed obstacles and design flaws have made them difficult to use.

Bicycles, wire poles and other articles often stand in the way as many people do not understand the functions of these specially designed walkways and slopes.

Another fault is walkways for the blind do not link up to important urban public facilities, such as bus stations, shops or banks, but lead nowhere in particular.

"A barrier-free environment is still a new concept to many people,'' said Zhang Qingwei, a member of the municipal political consultative conference.

To achieve such an environment, much more effort is needed to improve the city's public facilities.

Citing examples, Zhang said lifts should have push buttons with braille, buses or subways should have places for armchairs, and toilets, post offices and banks should have special facilities for such needy people.

"Creating a barrier-free environment needs co-operation from all departments involved,'' said Zhou Wenlin, an expert in the field with the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design and Research.

The public should also become involved by giving suggestions and inspections, Zhou added.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Construction issued standards on the design of urban streets and construction.

All new building designs have to follow these standards, or will not get permission for construction. The standards also apply when transforming old houses into new.

A few enterprises have carried out research on developing their products to suit the needs of such groups, even though some claim the domestic market does not have the materials to carry out such plans.

(China Daily by Xing DingDing)



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