You don’t see adorable golden Labradors helping the blind find their way around the streets in China. Although China has almost 1 in 5 of the world’s blind people – around 5,000,000 – there are just 47 guide dogs. Yep, that’s over 100,000 people per pooch. So how do those who can’t see find their way around?
For a lot of people first arriving in China, the embossed pavers running the length of many sidewalks are mystifying. I was stumped for months, until I learnt that they are for blind people to guide themselves with a cane.
Although the bizarre footpath pavers are everywhere, I rarely see blind people using them. It’s little surprise. Negotiating the Chinese streets with full vision can be hairy at best. Cars, trucks and screaming buses pay no heed to the little green man at zebra crossings, and the footpaths, blotted with loose paving stones, rarely provide sanctuary from electric bikes buzzing by. It’s part of the fun of living in China, and doesn’t seem to work too badly when everyone’s aware, but I can’t imagine it encourages the blind to get out and beat the streets. I’ve the upmost respect for those who do.
There is some good news for the 5 million blind and 11.9 million others who are visually impaired in China. As of August 1, new laws were passed allowing blind people and their guide dogs access to transport and public places. Hopefully life gets a little better for them and they can bring in a few more guide dogs.