Metro responds to wheelchair complaints

Xu Lingchao
Group complain about two-hour standoff before they were allowed to enter a Shanghai Metro station after their return from a cruise to Japan. 
Xu Lingchao

Shanghai Metro said on Tuesday that new regulations were being discussed by the government and that it will never refuse people in wheelchairs after a group complained they had been stranded at a Metro station for more than two hours on November 13.

According to current regulations, wheelchairs with powered steering are prohibited in Metro stations and trains. Wheelchairs with powered units can only enter stations when they’re powered off.

The patients stranded at the station had just completed a cruise tour to Japan. Some were reluctant to disconnect their steering. 

“We paraplegic patients all have the same issues that the strength of our back is weak,” said Miao Hong. 

Miao said there was stalemate for more than two hours before a staff member finally allowed them into the station. Each patient had their chairs powered off and steering disconnected and a station attendant escorted them onto the train.

Huang Yan, one of the group, later complained on social media about “impersonal” treatment. 

Shanghai Metro said on Tuesday it only asked people to power off their wheelchairs or disconnect the steering for safety reasons.

“There can be a large passenger flow in the station,” said an official. “We don’t want the wheelchairs to hit anyone, it is risky for both the person on the wheelchair and people walking.”

Previously, Miao had organized a larger group with the same powered wheelchairs to Lujiazui.

“We reached out to Shanghai Metro at the time. Not only did they allow us in, but they also helped us with the installation of the steering,” she said.

Miao said she didn’t understand why the two stations were different.

Shanghai Metro said some of the patients with Miao hadn't cooperated with staff. There was an escort service for people in wheelchairs if they needed it.

“We will escort them onto the train and tell the staff at the destination station to pick the passengers up,” the Metro operator told Shanghai Daily.

Shanghai Metro said wheelchair users can call 64370000 in advance to book the service for free.

On the same day Miao and her friends were arguing with the Metro operators, another four passengers on wheelchairs also entered the station, said the Metro operator. Two of them were in powered wheelchairs.

“They powered them off and our attendant took them to the train," the Metro operator said.

Although Shanghai is improving access for disabled people, current regulations may not keep pace with new technologies and result in conflict and controversy.

Electric steering is an example of such latest technology. According to Shanghai Traffic Police, wheelchairs with the facility are prohibited from the streets.

“People using wheelchairs can buy a standardized electrically powered wheelchair and register it so that they can go on to the streets,” police said. “But putting the steering on a normal wheelchair is too dangerous.”

When Shanghai Daily asked the group whether they were aware the steering was not legal, they said none had ever been stopped by the police.

“I have been using the steering for more than two years,” said Miao. “It makes me more independent when I need to go out.”

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