The Blind leading the Blind in China

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?

 

In China, blind people have to lead each other around

With few guide dogs in China, blind people help each other around the streets

 

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.

Bizarre Chinese Sidewalks

The embossed pavers on China’s sidewalks provide a guide for blind people’s canes

 

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.

 

weird Chinese sidewalks

It’s not always a straight-easy path for blind Chinese

 

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.

 

 

 

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My wife Ellen and I are currently living in China, bumbling our way around this fascinating and fast-changing country. We kicked off our stay with a semester of Intensive Mandarin studies at Beijing Language and Culture University and are now living in Shanghai. These posts cover some of my experiences, views and curious facts in and around the Middle Kingdom. Please let me know what you think!


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