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Beijing project is breaking barriers

QIU Pinduan is no longer a prisoner in her own home.

The 64-year-old, whose legs are paralyzed, has been confined to a wheelchair for 18 years.

However, the wheelchair was too wide for the door of her home and she had three steps to negotiate after that.

A trip outside meant her husband had to carry her down the steps while a helper folded up the wheelchair, carried it outside and unfolded it.

But that was before her home was modified in June.

She can now leave home freely thanks to the new wheelchair ramp and the doors, including those in her kitchen and bathroom, have been widened.

A height-adjustable shower nozzle, handrails and a slip-resistant shower chair the same height as her wheelchair mean she can also take care of herself in the bathroom.

Qiu's home is one of the 13,000 scheduled for modification for the disabled by the end of October, the Beijing Disabled Persons' Federation said.

The "barrier-free" program will cover all 30,000 Beijing families with registered disabled members by 2010.

"On average, it costs 4,000 yuan (US$586) to modify each home," said federation director Li Shuhua. "Wheelchair paths, special handrails and chairs for showers usually need installing," Li said.

About 5,000 homes were modified last year when the program started. However, the city government adjusted the policy this year, so that about 50,000 sight and hearing impaired people can receive other facilities such as flashing door bells.

But some older residences, especially in southern Beijing, will be harder to modify.

"For example, we cannot install elevators in some old buildings," said Guo Jian, an official with Beijing Planning Commission.

"In the long term, the design of buildings is being standardized and more barrier-free communities will emerge," Guo said.


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