Shanghai for Disabled

I am a part-time disabled person now. I use crutches whenever I go. Let me report my two weeks of experience as a disabled in Shanghai.

Wheel Chair? No. Thanks

I did get a 300 RMB nice wheel chair but I only used it outside my home for once. It turned out that Shanghai is not a good place to use wheel chair. There are slops at the pedestrian at cross road, but it seems no one ever tested it. The gap (about half cm) is just too big for a wheelchair to pass. Wendy pushes the wheelchair to get me up to the pedestrian, but got stuck there. If she pushes harder, I will fall out from the front since it is stuck anyway. The only solution is for me to leave the wheelchair, jump aside, helped me to pull the wheelchair up, and get to the pedestrian, and then sit down. After several places like this, I gave up wheelchair.


There are many places with lots of stairs, especially in restaurants. Once when I was shown of 20+ straight stairs to the second floor, my jaw dropped – just like the Panda in Kungfu Panda saw the stairs to the temple. I said: Thanks but no.

Crossing the Street

Crossing the street is so exciting! With cars horn and other people running as fast as rabbit, you quickly found out you are the only person left on the pedestrian, and the green light is almost over. The cars are like the race cars at the starting point – the engine is ready, and just wait for a green light! Well. I admit that I feel this type of tension only in Hollywood movie. Poor Jian Shuo!

Few Disabled on the Street!

I know the real reason why there are very few disabled in public space in Shanghai (and in China). The city is not designed for disabled (at least not for people losing a leg, no to mention people who cannot see). The only disabled people you see are very likely to be beggar – although some uses a crutch just to pretend to be disabled.

9 thoughts on “Shanghai for Disabled

  1. JS,

    Indeed, SH is not a physically-handicapped friendly city. I’ve seen very few ramps or other specially designed roads (such as special trails or brailed numbers for the blinds inside elevators) for wheelchaired folks. Other handicapped such as hearing imparied, mentally retared and multiply-handicap[ed are often evilly mocked at. That’s probably why they are being cooped at home or inside institutions.

    The difficulty getting around that you are experiencing now is temporary. Within a few months when the cast is off, you can then resume walking aroudn, but those who are permanently handicapped are pretty much doomed to be sheltered. Another kind of people who are deprived are the very poor ones. I heard some teachers make regular visits to their richer students’ homes and take “red packets” containing money from the parents. The teachers in turn give favorable treatment to these students.

    While Shanghai city is frivolously preparing for the World Expo, it needs beyond the put-on acts such as refreshing the facades of buildings with new paints or fake lined bricks. It needs to greatly improve its traffic flows by having better traffic lights, pedestrian crossings(and teaching people to abide traffic signs), and of course install facilities for the physically handicapped. I think way too much effort and money has been spent on adding instant beauties to the exteriors of buildings. I can’t imagene what the city traffic would be like with the added visitors from all over the world.

  2. Hi Jianshuo, what you experienced is a major problem in all Chinese cities, but its especially embarassing in the main cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, that should know better and that have (or do) need to prepare for the world (Beijing for 2008 Olympics/Paralympics and Shanghai for World Expo).

    The reality is much as you see it, accessibility doesn’t always exist at many places, but it isn’t only that. Most disabled people in China don’t have a chance to earn a real income, but for them life is extremely expensive. With no (or very, very few) accessible buses, if a disabled person doesn’t live close to a subway station (or isn’t traveling to a place close to a subway station), they must rely on taxis, this can really add up for anyone, but it makes a big difference if you are only making RMB1,000 or so a month. Therefore, you really need to think twice about going out during the weekend because of the expense it will be.

    On top of that, even you are willing to go out and take a cab, there is another major problem, at least for wheelchair users. Some cab drivers consider them to be a hassle and will refuse to stop for them, leading to insult and frustration for the disabled person.

    I’m glad you have talked about this, as I believe you have a wide readership and this is an issue that typically gets ignored. I hope in the future, you will be more mindful of this subject and discuss it even more.

  3. I can foresee inefficient traffic management and pedestrian crossings will be eye opener to the world during the expo. Hopefully, we don’t see more accidents involving the expo visitors. That will be the laughter of the year in 2010.

  4. Exactly DC. You would think that the cornerstone of the expo them, “Better City, Better Life”, would be traffic management. Its not all about making things look new and building a whole new infrastructure.

    Shanghai already appears to have a decent traffic infrastructure. Problem is, its not managed properly — Which doesnt make for a better city or a better life. As far as the infrastructure goes for the disabled….there are lots of ramps and WJS said and also a whole system of ridges to guide the blind. I didnt realize that the ramps were useless, but the guideways for the blind also seem pretty useless as there arent any audible pedestrian crossings (the ones that make a click or beep when the light is green). This is another example of making everything look better when in fact it is completely useless.

  5. Maybe you already mentioned this, the elevators at major metro stations are just for show, although they are designed for disabled (I assume). Once I tried to use it because I got a big luggage, it’s not operable.

    Also, many designs don’t consider disabled at first place, e.g., at Starbucks in Xu Jia Hui (Metro City), there is a step inside the store, at one time I almost slipped and fell because I did not see it. Perhaps the disabled in China needs a guy like Kenndey to speak for them.

  6. STLPlace, they aren’t for show, but for whatever reason (saving power? fear of over use/damage? bums sleeping in them?) you must find/contact the station staff (fine if you’re inside the station, but outside, you have to use your own phone to call) to get them to come and turn on the elevator. It’s a whole process that adds an extra 20 minutes or so to a trip. The same is true in Beijing, but there its even worse where you try calling the number only to find it busy or nobody answering.

    To Tom about the guidepaths for the blind and audible crossing, while audible crossings aren’t all that important, especially in China where so many cars don’t really abide by all traffic rules, the guide paths are very important. The problem with them is that not enough attention is paid to them and cars/bikes will park on them, people will set up shops/stalls on them, etc making them useless.

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