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Beijing 'sorry' for offending disabled


June 2, 2008

Beijing Olympics organisers have apologised for offending disabled people and scrapped a training manual for volunteers which sparked a wave of protest.The offending guide has been pulled while authorities revise "inappropriate language" applied to the disabled: "Some mistakes were made in describing people with disabilities," said a website statement from the organising body BOCOG.

"We would like to express our sincere apologies to those organisations, athletes with disabilities and friends who were offended by our publication." The manual had met with foreign and domestic criticism, the statement said. "As such BOCOG has decided to recall and rewrite this booklet."

Zhang Qiuping, director of Beijing's Paralympic Games, had attributed the problems last week to poor translation. "Probably it's cultural difference and mistranslation," Zhang told the Associated Press in Beijing. The Chinese-language version of the text, however, was nearly identical to the English, using essentially the same clumsy stereotypes to refer to the disabled. "For the problems ... that the guide used inappropriate language to describe people with disabilities, we've already asked the author to modify the relevant content."

"If it (language) was deliberate, than it's unforgivable," said Patrick Ng, secretary of the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee. "But if it's just a mistake then it needs to be amended or changed so it doesn't cause more offence."

"The language used in this guide is certainly not ideal," said the British Paralympic team. "However, the existence of such a guide shows that attitudes towards disability in China are developing and therefore should be seen as progress."

About 70,000 volunteers have been recruited for the August 8-24 Olympics, with 30,000 more being trained for the September 6-17 Paralympic Games. But many others will work in unofficial capacities as guides at the city's bus stops and subway stations. All told, volunteers are expected to outnumber the 500,000 foreign visitors expected for the Olympics.

Their scrapped instruction guide had told them that disabled people "show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorisation and thinking mechanism from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability". "For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people," it said. "They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. "Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called crippled or paralysed."

China's treatment of the disabled has in the past angered Australian swimming great Dawn Fraser, who cited it as one reason she won't be going to Beijing. She said in April she had seen disabled athletes spat on in the streets in Beijing during university games in the mid-1990s.

© 2008 AAP


05.06.2008

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