'Offensive' disability guide to be amended

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2008, 12:00am

Red-faced organisers of the Olympics and Paralympics are rewriting instructions for volunteers because the existing manuals caused offence to disabled athletes and supporters.

Chapter 6 of the English-version 'Paralympics Volunteer Skills' manual advises 100,000 volunteers that 'some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues'.

The chapter is a direct translation of the Chinese version and has upset Hong Kong and international disabled groups - forcing the chief of the Beijing Paralympic Games, Zhang Qiuping, to order the Games' official website version to be pulled.

'Probably it's a cultural difference and mistranslation,' Mr Zhang said yesterday.

'The training department and volunteer department made this training guide with the purpose of providing better service.

'As to the problems ... the guide used inappropriate language to describe people with disabilities, [and] we've already asked the author to modify the relevant content.'

But critics demanded an apology from the Games' organisers, Bocog, as well as a total 'revision' of the manuals. Patrick Ng Chak-lin, the secretary of the Hong Kong Paralympics Committee, said he would rewrite the English version to conform to current attitudes

'If this was deliberately done it is unforgivable. But I think it was written or edited by someone with personally held stereotypes and is not representative of the nationwide view of the disabled,' he said.

Simone Aspis, a campaigner from the UK Disabled People's Council, said Beijing should offer an immediate apology as 'many have been offended'.

'I'm stunned. There should be an apology, and a total rewriting of the manuals,' she said.

'It's not just the language but the perception that in 2008 we are considered a race apart ... China is now on the international stage and needs to adhere to the UN convention on the disabled which calls for equality.'

Although there exists widespread discrimination on the mainland against its 83 million disabled people, some people said there were signs of progress.

'The language used in this guide is certainly not ideal; however, the existence of such a guide shows that attitudes towards disability in China are developing and therefore should be seen as progress,' a spokeswoman for the Paralympics Great Britain Team said last night.

'The Paralympic Games in China will help to change attitudes to disability in China and showcase what abilities people with disabilities have,' added the spokeswoman.