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'We are all individuals'

FACILITIES at the Expo site were praised by the president of the International Paralympic Committee, Philip Craven, yesterday but he suggested that the green channels at pavilions for the physically challenged and the elderly be changed to allow access for anyone in need.

"It is a very good principle, but it is not necessary to have access for disabled and old people, it should be access for all, which means making everything accessible to everybody," said Craven.

He visited the China Pavilion and the Life and Sunshine Pavilion that features world's most advanced prosthesis exhibits and physically challenged artists performing music, calligraphy and other skills.

"Disability is a perception, not a fact. We are all individuals in the world," Craven said.

He said his vision was to remove the word "disabled" in reference to human beings because it was "a negative word."

However, Song Laixin, a senior official at the Visitors Service Center, said the president's wish for open access was hard to realize at the site because the fear that visitors would abuse the privilege and disadvantage groups might also protest.

"We can understand his feeling, but conditions are different between China and Western countries," Song said.

After the organizer stipulated that only people over 75 and the physically challenged could get access and only one person could accompany them, fewer healthy people were found abusing fast access for physically challenged visitors, said Song.

Craven said the many prosthesis and other exhibits in the Life and Sunshine Pavilion, the first pavilion about physically challenged people in World Expo history, could be used at some events at the Paralympics so they could be promoted for use in everyday life.

"A lot of things go from sports into everyday life," he said.

Many associations for the handicapped in China had shown an interest in the promotion of high-tech wheelchairs that could climb stairs and some prosthesis that users could control with remaining muscles in their arms and legs after visiting the pavilion, said Wang Lei, an official of Otto Bock, a Germany-based prosthesis manufacturer who provided exhibits to the pavilion.

Craven also encouraged young physically challenged people to take part in sports because it could help rebuild self-confidence.

Craven injured his foot in a car accident when he was 16. He went on to become a professional wheelchair basketball player. He has been the IPC president since 2001.

He said the 2014 Youth Olympic Games may have some events for physically challenged people for the first time.


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