At the end of 2021, two videos evaluating the worst and best experiences of barrier-free facilities in Shanghai received a lot of attention on the video-sharing platform Bilibili.
Downloader Zhao Hongcheng, 31, is a wheelchair user born in Shaoyang City, central China’s Hunan Province. She was diagnosed with polio when she was 1 year old. She currently lives in Shanghai.
Zhao became a vlogger in early 2019 with the username “Dachengzi Haomeimei” and rose to prominence after uploading a video of a trip to Guangzhou. In two days, the video had been viewed more than 2,000 times.
As a full-time blogger, she has posted 65 videos and shares her daily life with her nearly 76,000 subscribers. More importantly, she tries to support people with disabilities and help them integrate better into society.
In one of her articles, she recounted her experience at Tsutaya Books in Shanghai. The bookstore did not allow strollers and wheelchairs inside and required that they be stored “at the front desk”.
After waiting outside the store for more than ten minutes in the hope that someone from the store would help them, Zhao’s boyfriend Xie Lipeng came inside to negotiate with the manager.
Eventually, they were allowed in, but it left Zhao with a bitter taste.
“Do you think everyone in a wheelchair can get up after entering the store? Each of us wants to play and have fun. So why is this a mistake on my part? She commented.
She recounted another incident, this time at the prestigious Bund One Art Museum. Zhao and Xie were informed that because it was very crowded on the weekends, they would not be allowed to enter. This despite the fact that they were selling concession tickets for people with disabilities.
Once again, they made it in but felt like “strangers”.
On December 6, Zhao received a message on his Weibo account stating that Tsutaya Books had improved the facilities for wheelchair users.
A notification at the entrance to the bookstore now reads: “People with strollers and wheelchairs, please pay attention to safety. Ask sellers for help if needed. “
Lin Lixin / SHINE
Lin Lixin / SHINE
But Zhao also said that she felt the heat of the city and then posted videos of her “three best experiences” in the city.
“I would give Shanghai 7 out of 10 points,” Zhao told the Chinese-language Shanghai Morning Post.
Zhao was impressed with the facilities and services of the Shanghai Natural History Museum and the Pudong Art Museum.
ET Stage found special mention in the videos. It was not particularly well equipped with facilities for the disabled, but the helpful staff members convinced it.
Zhao moved to Shanghai in August 2019 to work with Meituan. She uploaded a video of herself taking a bus in Shanghai. Although the bus had facilities to deal with disabled people, the driver was untrained and took a long time to get her on the bus.
The video was viewed nearly 160,000 times but nothing more came of it. Zhao was invited to write to the Shanghai Municipal Government Proposal Collection Office. It got a quick response, which made it possible to better train bus staff in caring for people with disabilities.
Statistics from the Chinese Federation of People with Disabilities showed that there were 85 million people with disabilities in China in 2020.
Shanghai has been trying to improve barrier-free facilities since the 1980s, the most recent being a regulation released in June 2020.
At Shuicheng Road station on metro line 10, maps and information in Braille are available to students at the nearby Shanghai School for the Blind. An “Accessibility Guide Handbook” was published in 2020 and includes information for visually impaired, deaf-mute and physically disabled passengers.
Last week, 10 new electric buses were introduced in Jiading District. Most of the passengers on the roads are elderly. Buses have low floors and drivers are trained to help passengers get on buses and put on seat belts.
The general public is also increasingly aware of people with disabilities.
“Nya’s life”, a vlogger with more than two million subscribers on Bilibili, uploaded a video of her experience with Zhao in a wheelchair for two days. It has been viewed over 2.4 million times and received over 5,000 comments.
Liu Mengna, another vlogger with over 500,000 subscribers on Bilibili, also shared her experience with Zhao.
This led to what was called the “Wheelchair Challenge”, similar to the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. It brought to light several inconveniences encountered daily by people with disabilities. With the participation of celebrities online, the awareness of the population continues to grow.
In two years, Zhao has heard many stories from his followers. She recounted how a girl’s family bought a wheelchair for her brother after watching Zhao’s video and then went to Shenzhen. It was the first time that his brother had taken a long journey.
A user on Nya’s video said her father was in tears after being allowed to board a tourist boat on West Lake in Hangzhou.
“I was really touched, it never occurred to me that I could influence other people,” Zhao said.
Zhao’s parents are high school teachers, and she did her first year of school at home. She started going to school at the age of seven, but her best memories are from her elementary school.
“I guess that’s the reason for my confidence and happiness,” she said.
Zhao quit his job in March last year to produce more videos.
“I always feel that people have values and missions in their lives,” she said. “One of my missions is to share my life as an independent person so that more people with disabilities are seen.”
It has two goals: one is to see barrier-free facilities everywhere and the other is to live independently without anyone’s help.
“It is difficult to change society,” she said. “I don’t want to be aggressive and argue with others. All I want is to be treated equally. We are ordinary people who live a different lifestyle.”