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Barrier-free site is praised

RICK Hansen, a Canadian paralympian who traveled around four continents on wheelchair in 1985, yesterday praised World Expo Shanghai for creating a site that was truly barrier free.

He said the facilities at Expo 2010 were far superior compared to the 1988 Expo in Lisbon, Portugal. Hansen was the commissioner general of the Canada Pavilion at the 1988 Expo.

"I toured around the world to try to make people more aware of accessibility and encourage barriers to be removed," said the 53-year-old Hansen, who is also an activist for people with spinal cord injuries, after touring the Expo site and the Canada Pavilion.

Most pavilions have green channels for the physically challenged and seniors. Wheelchairs can access all facilities.

He said the green channels were not common and barriers were everywhere at Expo Lisbon.

"I'd like to congratulate the people of Shanghai for making huge progress on accessibility and organizing such a fantastic Expo," he said.

Hansen injured his spinal cord in a car crash at the age of 15 and was paralyzed from the waist down. He won 19 international wheelchair marathons, including three world championships.

He started his Man In Motion World Tour in 1985, departing from Vancouver, Canada. He traveled more than 40,000 kilometers in his wheelchair, stopping in 34 countries over 26 months and receiving about US$26 million in donations. He used the money to establish the Rick Hansen Foundation, which does research into finding a cure for spinal cord injuries and improving the quality of life for those with such disabilities.

He said after he was paralyzed, he had to overcome numerous barriers that makes life so difficult for people with disabilities.

To raise awareness, he launched his global tour.

"I like the 'Better City, Better Life' Expo Shanghai theme, but I want to add a 'Better World,'" he said.

He came to Shanghai to contact local researchers and share information while also celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Man In Motion tour. He will also stop in Beijing and Hong Kong.

"My aim is that there will be no unnatural barriers across the world and that technology will one day allow disabled people to walk again," he said.

Hansen was also one of the final torchbearers at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.


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