Publicado por: Ricardo Shimosakai | 29/04/2015

Beijing by Wheelchair: And You Thought Ambulatory Pedestrians Had it Bad

SONY DSCSo you think it’s tough to get around Beijing’s public spaces on foot? Try in a wheelchair.

Travel Blogger James Ballardie (who just wrote about his China experience as a BBC Guest blogger) knows a thing or two about accessibility, having used a wheelchair for the past 32 years and having traveled to a dozen or so countries (USA, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Vietnam, Australia) since he and his girlfriend took off for an extended backpacking trip in January 2014.

But, as he notes on his blog, 31 years of wheelchair use in England prepared him for just about anything … that is, until he arrived in China.

“Carrying out even the most basic of tasks in a wheelchair in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and Shenzhen felt like I was competing in The Hunger Games,” he writes on his humorous and insightful blog, Look at All the Poor People, where his current stat counter reads: “ARGUMENTS WITH GIRLFRIEND: 8; UNUSUAL ANIMALS EATEN: 47; NON-WESTERN STYLE TOILETS USED: 116”.

Ballardie’s journey through Beijing and other parts of China in January of this year is as telling as it is familiar. Oddly, most of his observations have less to do with the lack of wheelchair accommodations than they do about the general state of driving and pedestrian-unfriendly infrastructure in the city.

“China literally has the most aggressive driving culture of any country I have ever been to – even more so than Brazil,” he wrote. Drivers in Brazil, he notes, maintain a constant speed, while in China they appear to increase their speed to scare pedestrians back.

He also notes that habit of local drivers to deliberately avoid eye contact with pedestrians so as to avoid having to slow down strictly out of courtesy.

This is nothing new to those of us who live in the city. But it’s one thing coming from the fresh-off-the-boat Beijing expat that just relocated from rural Iowa; it’s another thing entirely when coming from someone who has had experience traversing so many cities of the world.

Truth be told, Ballardie typically writes very little about his disability on his blog, but the situation in China was dire enough for him to make an exception to that rule in his post on the China portion of his trip, I Went Backpacking Around China In A Wheelchair…

Ballardie’s difficulties in China also are rooted in the fact that he typically transverses minor obstacles by leaving his wheelchair and crawling, but that the places he visited in China were often littered with various and sundry expectorations which made such excursions unpalatable.

Other impediments that hindered his travels were the inevitable fences that are irritatingly a feature of practically every roadway in Beijing and the fact that when he did encounter an accessible lift, they were either out of order or locked.

Chinese traditional architecture also threw him for a loop, in particular the wooden beams (men kan) that run under doorways in places like the Forbidden City and other tourist attractions, which necessitated him to dismount dozens of times on a typical tourist itinerary.

But our paraphrasing here doesn’t do Ballardie’s post justice – there are many additional moments of insight, hilarity, kindness, and even accounts of places in China that were particularly accessible, that make his China post worthy of a closer read on his blog here. Do check it out.

Source: The Beijinger


  1. Muito bom saber!
    principalmente nesse nosso momento!
    Juergen vai ler!

    • Acredito que Beijing esteja melhor em questões de acessibilidade depois das Paralimpíadas. Se fizerem pesquisas nessa temática, podem encontrar várias outras iniciativas.

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