Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Politically-correct Dignity

Today my colleagues and I were talking about the upcoming Paralympics.

They admitted these Games probably won't be as popular as the Olympics, despite news reports that lots of tickets have been sold out, especially at the Water Cube and the Bird's Nest. That's what they said... at the Olympics too.

Nevertheless, my coworkers had questions about what you call these Paralympians. Do you say disabled? Handicapped? Physically-challenged?

I cringed when I heard them say these words, but it's not their fault.

There is much of a public education around people with disabilities in China. And part of that is because they are practically hidden from view. That is in part because of the public's lack of awareness and acceptance of them, as well as the lack of facilities made accessible to them.

A foreign colleague remarked to me the Paralympics will be a real challenge to the organizers and the domestic media who are confronting the issue of how to deal with and cover people with disabilities.

Another coworker told me Paralympic volunteers are having a hard time, watching the disabled athletes try to manage on their own. The volunteers have been taught not to offer help unless asked, and so many stand by, helplessly as the athletes do things on their own.

But back to the vocabulary. I explained to my colleagues the different kinds of disabilities and the different terms -- vision impairment, cerebral palsy, and amputee.

I also tried to say some athletes may have been born with a disease leading to their disability, or were in accident, that led them to be in a wheelchair or become an amputee.

They shrank in horror over the possibility of a disability, but this is the reality of life for some people around the world.

I reminded them the Paralympics is about them celebrating their efforts and everyone of them have an amazing story of how they got here.

Hopefully that has inspired some of them to see for themselves the determination of the human spirit in the next few days.

1 comment:

ks said...

the standard of living, lack of understanding for the handicapped in china are still quite behind in comparison to western countries. high profile personel like deng pufang the elder son of deng xiaoping being the chair of china's handicpped is one of the ways to promote the awareness. the whole country hopefully can be galvanised to look into this issue after the paralympics games.