Para Games are a testament to Hangzhou's efforts to advance disabled people's rights

Wu Huixin
For years, Hangzhou, the 4th Asian Para Games host, has spared no effort in upgrading barrier-free facilities and software citywide, making life much easier for disabled people.
Wu Huixin

The 4th Asian Para Games opened at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium on October 22, with nearly 3,100 athletes from 44 countries and regions taking part in 22 sports and 564 events through October 28.

For years, Hangzhou has spared no effort in upgrading barrier-free facilities citywide, making life much easier for the physically challenged than before.

Last year, it became the first city in China to launch a "Wheelchair Navigation" map in cooperation with domestic leading company Amap Co. After turning on the "Accessible Navigation" mode, the map application can automatically plan a barrier-free route for the physically challenged, avoiding places that are inaccessible by wheelchair.

To make the map more user friendly, Hangzhou collected barrier-free data from 1,573 public toilets, 297 elevators, 28 overpasses and tunnels, 150 hospitals, 144 public service centers, 93 hotels, 111 parks, 17 libraries, 27 museums, 54 shopping malls, 132 banks and 35 gyms.

As of June this year, the Hangzhou Metro had 12 lines with a total length of 516 kilometers and 261 stations. Since the launch of the barrier-free construction project in 2020, all stations have been fitted with barrier-free facilities.

The city has also been at the forefront of the "one-time visit" reform and has figured out various ways to cover grassroots affairs for the disabled, optimizing the process of solving their major problems.

Para Games are a testament to Hangzhou's efforts to advance disabled people's rights

The construction of barrier-free environments provides guarantees for the disabled community to fully and conveniently participate in the events during the Hangzhou Asian Para Games.

Local departments have put the "one click to benefit disabled people" into use on the Zheliban (浙里办) application. Zheliban is the largest official online platform in Zhejiang Province, of which Hangzhou is the capital, with about 82 million users.

Millions of pieces of data from government departments have been pooled onto the platform. The physically challenged who had to submit documents at service windows when applying for government subsidies can upload them online, with the money later transferred to their accounts, since the platform can identify the disabled, calculate their subsidies and order banks to transfer money to their accounts automatically.

Previously, hundreds of community workers had been helping disabled people deal with their affairs at government service windows. Today, the upgraded platform has eased the pressure from their daily work, and made public services more friendly to people with physical disability.

The government subsidizes companies that employ disabled people, so the platform is also accessible to hundreds of companies applying for subsidies. It is expected to gather additional information from more organizations and departments, making the data pool even more versatile for disabled people and their employers.

With artificial intelligence booming citywide, the technology is also being used to help deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Hangzhou-based Alibaba DAMO Academy has developed the Xiao Mo digital man – a two-way AI sign language translation system that can translate spoken language into sign language, and recognizes sign language to turn it into spoken language.

Para Games are a testament to Hangzhou's efforts to advance disabled people's rights

The convenient facilities inside and outside the competition venues have enabled disabled individuals to truly feel the professional standards and considerate services of the Hangzhou Asian Para Games.

Now, Xiao Mo is available across 643 scenic spots around the West Lake, offering hearing-impaired people a much better sightseeing experience. It is available on the Alipay application and the government's Accessibility Service Online platform and provides 24/7 service.

Apart from AI, a group of volunteers has organized the Sign Language Sister real-time online and offline translation team to help deaf and mute people, who can search for barrier-free services on Alipay to make a sign language translation call.

Currently, about 70 volunteers are on call from 9am to 5pm. The team is subsidized by government departments and provides free services.

For years, Hangzhou has strengthened its public interest litigation system to protect the legal rights and interests of disabled people, which has been designated as the "Hangzhou Experience" by the Supreme People's Procuratorate and promoted nationwide.

The efforts have had a significant impact on improving the enforcement of rights for the physically challenged in medical, tourism, public transport and other public services.

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