The Hangzhou Asian Para Games, hosted in the scenic Zhejiang Province of East China, have set a new benchmark in harnessing technology for inclusivity. By incorporating innovations such as a bionic arm and a robot guide dog, these games have significantly advanced the cause of accessibility, enabling individuals with disabilities to actively participate in sports.
During a recent press briefing in Hangzhou, authorities emphasized the significance of the Asian Para Games in fostering advancement for individuals with disabilities. The Games, they said, play a pivotal role in championing equal rights, laying the groundwork for a more inclusive future.
Yong Zhijun, who plays a key role in the Chinese delegation of the Hangzhou Asian Para Games, highlighted the tremendous progress China has made in fostering sports for the disabled community. According to him, the Hangzhou Games have added fresh momentum to this endeavor.
Yong said, “The government’s focus on ensuring legal and policy protections for sports catering to the disabled has borne fruit. We have seen notable advances in rehabilitation, fitness, and competitive sports catering to this community. Our objectives are multifaceted: We aim to champion equal participation in sports, propel the growth and popularity of disabled sports in China, celebrate the accomplishments of the disabled community, and contribute to Asia’s harmony, stability, and development. Additionally, we endeavor to create valuable and enduring resources for the broader community, including those with disabilities.”
Hangzhou local, Wang Kai, who lives with a disability, praised the enhanced infrastructure in the city. His experience attending the Games was seamless, facilitated by barrier-free pathways and an abundance of helpful volunteers, making his journey from transportation to the viewing arena effortless.
Historically, China’s commitment to para-sports has been evident in its impressive performance on the global stage. At the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, China made headlines by securing the top spot in both the gold medal tally and the overall medal count, a dominance they maintained in subsequent Paralympics held in Beijing, London, Rio, and Tokyo. Furthermore, China marked its Winter Paralympics debut in 2002 with a small delegation. By 2018, they had clinched their first gold at the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, and by 2022, they dominated the gold medal and overall medal tallies at the Beijing Winter Paralympic Games.
In September, a groundbreaking national law was enacted to emphasize the construction of accessible facilities and public services, propelling the active participation of individuals with disabilities in societal activities.
Wang Hongwei, of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, remarked on the transformative role sports play in ensuring the disabled community’s equal participation in societal affairs. Data from the Xinhua News Agency supports this, revealing a notable surge in the participation of disabled individuals in community cultural and sports activities – from 6.8% in 2015 to an impressive 23.9% in 2021.
Reflecting on the legacy of the Hangzhou Games, Yang Yingying, the president of Hangzhou Disabled Persons Federation, outlined three crucial steps: amplifying the construction of disabled-friendly sports infrastructure, proactively organizing sporting events for the disabled, and enhancing the training of professionals dedicated to serving the disabled community. She observed, “The spirit of integration has been reinforced. A growing number of individuals with disabilities are actively participating, contributing, and benefiting from the city’s evolution.”