Nath from The Wheelchair Traveller recently interviewed me for his brand new Traveloholic Interview series. I loved answering his travel questions which you can read here. I’ve also loved reading and keeping up to date with his travel diary posts so much that I asked Nath if he would like to guest post on Simply Emma. He very kindly agreed and I’m excited to share Nath’s guest post with you today where he talks about his experience of travelling to China and how he found the attitudes towards disability.
Nath’s Story: Travelling Into The Unknown
China, not your average accessible tourist destination right? You may be surprised then to hear that it ended up being one of the most insightful and unforgettable trips on my travels thus far! As customary now when I write these posts, I think this sense of adventure began when my parents and I (and the dog!) used to take random drives with simply a map stashed in the front seat pocket just in case. However, before I knew it, I was off to university and then onto living independently.
Despite leaving home, the adventurer inside me never subsided, I started travelling all over the UK in between attending university simply to explore the very country that we live in.
Cultural Attitudes And Disability
As soon as university was over, I knew that I wanted to explore further afield beginning in Ireland gradually travelling further and further from the UK. Over the few years that I have been exploring the world, I have developed a keen interest in seeing the cultural attitudes towards me having Cerebral Palsy and disability in general within countries where society is perhaps not as inclusive as we are in this country. This is partly why China was on my bucket list (the other being that my university flatmate was Chinese!) thus we organised a 9-day trip last year with the help of Trailfinders.
One of the things that struck me during my prior research was the effect that the Beijing Paralympics of 2008 appeared to have on the country in terms of their overall attitudes towards disability and I certainly wanted to investigate this further during my trip. Funnily enough, we began our trip in that very city. It is clear from wandering around sights such as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven that the city made a big commitment to change when hosting the Paralympics by implementing ramps at these historical sites along with elevators down onto the subway.
However, if you are to look under the surface of these adaptations, the real China can be seen and it really is a different story. Overlooking the staring and the obvious ‘what is that’ attitude (which you soon become accustomed to even when travelling in Europe) it is evident that the wealth divide in China is far between and, unfortunately, the disabled fits in the latter. After seeing a guy and his disabled child doing physio on a street corner, we asked our helpful guide what the government’s stance is on disability to which she explained how the system is currently non-existent and is playing catch up with the rest of the world.
Understanding Chinese Culture And Attitudes Towards Disability
During my trip, it also became apparent that there is a difference in attitudes between the government and the public towards disability. We were in a restaurant one night and the waiter came over with the menus and then actually took the time to hold the menu up for me whilst I chose, he even offered to assist me with my food! The next night, we chose another restaurant and, again, the waiter came up and held the glass up for me to drink, you don’t even see that in the UK!
There are very clear signs of Chinese society becoming inclusive, however, like every other country, it won’t happen overnight but the positive attitude is definitely there so, if you are thinking about visiting, I would highly recommend it (but beware that they may confiscate powered wheelchairs and a Chinese translator is a must!!).
So what’s next? Later on this year, I’m visiting Astana in Kazakhstan where very little is written about attitudes towards disability, guess I’ll find out when the only direct flight back to Heathrow is on a Saturday as my adventures with Superbunny (my electric wheelchair) continue!
To read more about Nath’s adventures, head over to his The Wheelchair Traveller Blog and follow him on the following links:
Website – http://thewheelchairtraveller.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thewh
Twitter – https://twitter.com/VEUcan
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/thew