Hong Kong Paralympic athlete calls for more education, support for disabled people

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  • Wheelchair badminton champion Daniel Chan, who took home a bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Games, called for more social support for those with disabilities
  • He recalled a time when he was insulted and called “trash” by a man occupying an accessible toilet, saying it reflected a lack of understanding in society
Sue Ng |
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Daniel Chan Ho-yuen, a wheelchair badminton player, is currently ranked at number two in the world. He recently spoke about how Hong Kong needs to be more welcoming to people with disabilities. Photo: SCMP/ Edmond So

Hong Kong needs more social support for people with disabilities, said Paralympic badminton medallist Daniel Chan Ho-yuen, who recalled being insulted by a non-disabled man occupying an accessible toilet last month.

The 34-year-old lost his leg in a car crash in 2008 at the age of 22 and debuted in international competitions in 2010. Currently ranked the world’s number two para-badminton player, Chan practices four days a week at Yuen Chau Kok Sports Centre.

Hong Kong needs to be more disability-friendly

On November 27, he shared a post on social media about the discrimination he faced at the Centre, adding that the disabled facilities were often abused by people who didn’t actually need them. He said that after his morning training, he waited for an accessible toilet for 20 minutes and was shocked when he saw an ordinary middle-aged man walk out of the toilet.

When he reminded the man not to use the disabled facilities, the man questioned him about his own disability, as he was wearing an artificial leg. “[I] don’t understand why the accessible toilet only serves people with disabilities,” the man said, calling Chan “trash”.

Paralympic badminton medallist Daniel Chan Ho-yuen (left) said Hong Kong’s mindset towards people with disabilities needs to change and that more understanding is needed. Photo: Sue Ng

“I often see people using the disabled facilities, but this is my first time being called ‘trash’,” Chan said in an opening ceremony for the Paralympic Photography Exhibition last Friday, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The Exhibition, hosted by the Urban Renewal Authority, aims to promote social awareness for para-sports and encourage people with physical disabilities to develop an interest in athletics.

What are the Paralympics?

Although he was insulted, Chan said he didn’t place blame solely on the man for his rude attitude, as the incident reflected a lack of understanding of physically handicapped people in society.

“We often stress the importance of both hardware and software [in building an inclusive society]. In terms of hardware, or making things physically accessible, the city has done a great job building accessible toilets and lifts in shopping malls,” he explained.

5 Hong Kong Paralympic athletes we watched this year

However, the insufficient development of software – social awareness- has failed to further engage the disabled in the community. Chan said citizens with poor educational levels and morals often occupy barrier-free facilities, and for disabled people who have lower self-esteem and don’t want to confront them, the unpleasant experience may keep them at home and away from the outside world.

Chan competing in the Tokyo Paralympics. Photo: Hong Kong Paralympic Committee

“I feel like people treat ‘inclusiveness’ as a slogan [on disability day] instead of like an action … But you don’t only respect your parents on Mother’s and Father’s Day. To build a real, inclusive society for everyone, we need to walk the talk every day.”

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