Rapid industrialisation and longer life spans have contributed to the rise in the number of disabled people on the mainland, officials said yesterday.
Sun Xiande, deputy general director of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, said the rise of the mainland's population to 1.3 billion was also behind the increase to 83 million disabled.
'Also, the criteria for surveys have changed, and this has led to a growth in this community,' Mr Sun said at a press conference on the Olympic Green.
Officials are using the Paralympics to promote a new era of awareness of the disabled via various policies.
'We all know that a single event [the Paralympics] cannot change attitudes of the people immediately. It's a lengthy process,' said Mr Sun.
'But since the opening up and reform of China, the attitude towards people with disabilities has changed and has improved. Economic growth and the raising of civil behaviour among the general public have also helped.'
More employment laws and government financial support were being made available for the unemployed disabled, said Yu Faming, director general of the Department of Employment Promotion under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
Mr Sun said his organisation as well as disabled individuals had 'taken a democratic part in the economic, political, social and cultural undertakings of China'.
'The mottos of self-respect, self-confidence, self-determination and self-reliance have been further promoted,' he said.
Nevertheless, a group of expatriate volunteers and professional physiotherapists recently said they had been told to stop their daily visits to three state-run orphanages in and around Beijing because of 'security concerns' surrounding the Beijing Paralympics.
Zhang Shifeng, deputy director of the Department of Social Welfare and Charitable Enterprise Promotion under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said he was not aware of the situation.
Bocog spokesman Sun Weide said at the press conference: 'We were still talking to some of the departments concerned.'