By Yi Shuran, People’s Daily

Is it possible for the visually impaired to enjoy the pleasure of running? Absolutely!

Recently, at the Beijing Olympic Forest Park, a unique sight unfolded as a group of visually impaired individuals ran in the soft morning light, assisted by volunteers.

The runners and volunteers were connected by a 30-centimeter guide rope. Together, they swung their arms and took steps in unison, progressing from initial awkwardness to perfect coordination, from a slow walk to a brisk run.

He Yajun, who has lost all sight, said that with the help of the volunteer guides, he could enjoy the happiness of wind rushing past his ears, which boosted his confidence in better integrating into society.

It is not an easy task to help the visually impaired run. Every volunteer guide must go through professional training, during which they run with their eyes covered to understand the experience of those who cannot see.

They must stay fully concentrated and always be vigilant of the surroundings, ready to alert the runners of any subtle changes.

With their professionalism and dedication, these volunteers have become “clear eyes” for visually impaired runners.

By the end of 2023, the number of volunteers for people with disabilities in China has reached nearly 1.89 million. Together, they had provided services to those with impairment 27.76 million times.

Volunteer services for people with disabilities in China are becoming increasingly professional and diversified, expanding from simple visits and housekeeping to targeted and specialized assistance in recent years. This has further improved the living quality of those with disabilities while also providing them with emotional support, fostering a more inclusive social environment.

For instance, in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu province, a volunteer team composed of special education teachers, university students and scholars has been offering customized reading assistance for children with autism at children’s rehabilitation centers. In Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong province, volunteers who have received professional training are helping those with mental disabilities master essential life skills.

To better meet the aspirations of people with disabilities for a better life, China has adopted a forward-looking approach to align the needs of people with disabilities with available volunteer resources, aiming to further standardize and professionalize volunteer services.

In China, many regions have been actively engaging outstanding individuals from all walks of life, especially those with relevant skills, to serve as volunteers, and developing courses and textbooks for volunteer training, so as to improve the quality of volunteer services.

For example, in central China’s Hunan province, regular training sessions have been conducted to  offer courses such as “volunteer services and social governance” and “professional and sustainable development of volunteer services.” These efforts have effectively improved the professionalism of both volunteer organizations and individuals.

Besides, some regions in China have reinforced information sharing to leverage each volunteer’s expertise to address the varied needs of people with disabilities. For example, Shanghai has launched a mini program that provides end-to-end communication services between volunteers and people with disabilities to ensure quick response to their personalized demand for mobility, medical assistance, and legal consultation.

Moving forward, China will continue to build and improve relevant platforms to enhance data sharing and coordination of volunteer services region-wide and across the country, so as to make volunteer services more professional and reach more people with disabilities.

The continuous advancement of volunteer services for people with disabilities in China reveals a deeper sense of social progress and compassion.

China remains committed to improving volunteer services for people with disabilities through policy enhancement and increased funding, among others, and will continue to engage more professional and dedicated volunteers to help more people with disabilities enjoy a better life.

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