China aims to enhance barrier-free living environment through legislation

Xinhua Updated: 2023-04-26

BEIJING -- Thanks to an elevator installed last year in the old town of Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province, a grandmother surnamed Xu can now cross the street easily. She simply presses a button and enters the elevator cab, allowing her to cross via a flyover.

Barrier-free facilities can be spotted around the city. According to local authorities, as of February this year, the city had 3,504 accessible buses, over 100 km of newly built barrier-free passage in old communities, and 11 city-owned parks that have completed barrier-free renovation, making daily life easier for certain groups in need, such as the elderly and those with physical disabilities.

Guangzhou is one of the cities across China, which has been making efforts to enhance the barrier-free living environment. Starting in the 1980s, China has seen rapid progress in barrier-free construction.

Chinese lawmakers have been drafting legislation on the construction of barrier-free environment, aiming to regulate development and address pressing issues. On Monday, the second draft was submitted to the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the top legislature, for its second reading.

The bill makes provisions regarding the construction of accessible facilities, accessible information exchanges and social services, guarantee measures, supervision and management, and liability.

The draft, underscoring the need to improve the daily lives of disabled and elderly people, stipulates that other groups with barrier-free needs may enjoy the facilities as well.

China had about 85 million people with disabilities, and 267 million elderly people aged 60 and above by the end of 2021. Other groups that may benefit from such facilities include pregnant women, children, and the sick and injured.

Shao Lei, head of the Institute for Accessibility Development under Tsinghua University, said that China should strive to meet the diverse barrier-free needs of various groups through enhancing the accessibility level.

Installing accessible facilities and elevators in old residential buildings has become a common concern in recent years.

Xue Feng, chief architect of the China Construction Engineering Design and Research Institute Co, Ltd, found that almost half of the residents in many old residential communities are the elderly, and their social activities might be hindered due to the lack of elevators.

Targeting the problem, the draft law specifies provisions for the installation of elevators in old residential buildings.

The draft provides clear legislative guidance on the solution to the problem, Xue said, adding that this fully embodies the concept of legislation for the people.

In addition, the bill also makes provisions for the establishment of personnel training mechanisms in relevant fields.

At present, many research institutes and universities in China have set up barrier-free research institutions and cultivated a number of professionals in related fields. Some universities are also adding barrier-free content to their courses.

For example, among this year's newly approved and added categories of majors for undergraduate programs, the barrier-free management major at the Nanjing Normal University of Special Education has attracted public attention.

Lyu Shiming, head of the China Association of Volunteers for Persons with Disabilities, said the provisions in the draft reflect the country's emphasis on and encouragement of training personnel for barrier-free environment construction.

Lyu also suggested setting up a barrier-free living environment day to popularize the concept and raise awareness among the public. 

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