Bringing joy of reading to the physically challenged and celebrating different cultures
Reading is not only allowing words to touch one's eyes but also one's heart. Everyone can enjoy the charm of reading, no matter if he or she is able-bodied or disabled.
On World Book Day, which falls on Sunday, a local barrier-free reading project "Vision Beyond Sight: Celebrating a Year of Inclusive Reading in Shanghai" was launched with its first inclusive reading salon at the Sinan Mansions.
This year-round project, jointly organized by Shanghai Daily and Shanghai Disabled Persons' Reading Committee, aims to invite people from all over the world to learn about the exchange of Eastern and Western culture, as well as seeing how the disabled live in the new era.
Meanwhile, the project also shows how the city takes care of those physically challenged, especially their cultural life.
It will host a series of events such as inclusive reading salons of literary classics from various countries, and help the disabled to live life like ordinary people.
This project is guided by the Shanghai People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Shanghai Disabled Person's Federation, Shanghai United Media Group, and Shanghai Writers' Association.
Xinhua Bookstore Niguang 226 and City News Service provide support for its operation.
During the ceremony, Sohail Shaikh, consul of the British Consulate-General in Shanghai, said the fantastic event supports people's values on accessibility and inclusivity.
"I hope we promote opportunities for more people from our communities to enjoy and benefit from rewarding cultural experiences," he said.
"There is a long and rich tradition of cultural exchanges between the UK and China. We are here to encourage and facilitate this and we know there is a strong appetite for people of both countries."
Zhang Hong, the first visually disabled Asian and the third in the world to conquer Mount Everest, served as the narrator in the project's preview video "Vision Beyond Sight."
"I lost my eyesight due to glaucoma when I was 21," he said. "I used to have a tough life but I never gave up and tried my best to climb the mountain in my life.
"Reading has already become an important part of my life. At the beginning, my wife often fetched me some newspaper and read articles for me. Later I've got access to audio books and other ways of inclusive reading, which changed my life."
According to Han Ying, manager of Shanghai Voice of Light Audio Description Culture Development Center, who is also visually impaired and awarded 2022 Touching Shanghai, every individual can be given equal access to reading.
"Nowadays reading has been way beyond the site," he said. "We can read Braille using our finger, we can read e-book using our ear, and we can even read different cultures using our heart."
A Xinhua Bookstore reading tour in Shanghai was also launched at the ceremony, asking residents, especially the physically challenged, to visit Xinhua bookstores and collect stamps.
After the launch ceremony, there was a reading salon titled "When Tang Xianzu Meets Shakespeare."
Tan Yingzhou, scholar, writer, translator and professor at Fudan University's College of Foreign Languages and Literature, thought how to provide more convenience for the disabled in reading is an important topic.
"Today when I was heading here, the taxi driver is a deaf-mute person," he told Shanghai Daily. "I feel now the disabled people can participate more in social issues. But that's not enough. We still have lots of things to do for them."
The two other guests were Liu Fang, general secretary of the Literature Committee of China Association of Persons with Visual Disabilities and member of China Writers Association, and Dominik Pietzcker, professor at Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Germany and the visiting professor at Shanghai International Studies University.
At the salon they discussed the mutual learning of Chinese and English literature, the impact of reading on the disabled, and the improvement of urban barrier-free reading environments.
At the end of the event, Sun Kemi, member of Shanghai Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe, and UK drama teacher Katherine Ryan together gave a performance combining Kunqu Opera with British poetry recitation.
"This year Shanghai released its regulations on the construction of accessible environment," Sun said. "For we disabled, a barrier-free life doesn't only show on transport, but also on cultural aspects, such as reading and enjoying plays."
Another on-site disabled performer, Yao Jianjing, a national first-class tea master, said in the past disabled people's desire for social experiences had been unfulfilled.
"Now the regulations and barrier-free facilities provide us more opportunities to join the social life and show our own value," Yao said.
Clarisse Le Guernic, a French volunteer with City News Service, thought reading should be available for everyone, and an activity like this was a good opportunity for the disabled.
"At work, we have the chance to take care of the people with disability and contribute to raise the awareness," said Indian volunteer Anex George.
"For me, this is an opportunity to meet more people and also to understand a bit more about the challenges that people with disability are facing."