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Vlogger with disabilities learning to live independently

Source: China Daily Updated: 2019-10-10

Zhao Hongcheng, who suffered an attack of poliomyelitis when she was young, is a part-time video blogger. [Photo/China Daily]

If you are using wheelchairs and taking a high-speed train in China, will business-class seats be your best option?

The answer is no, as the narrow aisles and lack of accessible restrooms have left many business class passengers like video blogger Zhao Hongcheng, also known as Dachengzi, of video-sharing website Bilibili in agony and frustration.

Zhao had to remain at the junction of the fourth and fifth carriages where the train's only barrier-free restroom is located and in the end she only spent two hours in the business-class seat that she bought at a high price before the Spring Festival travel rush.

"What I learned from this experience is that the business class is not equipped with accessibility facilities and I don't recommend disabled people who use wheelchairs to spend money on it," she said in a video which has been viewed tens of thousands of time on the internet.

She also urged the railway administration to issue a travel guide for wheelchair users with information such as how to book priority passenger services and where the barrier-free restroom of a train is located.

Growing up with a physical disability caused by poliomyelitis, the 29-year-old has always been yearning for a free and independent life and not to rely on others since childhood.

All of this started becoming true after she became a graduate student in Shanghai six years ago.

When the semester ended, she had to take the train back home by herself because her parents had to work and could not come to pick her.

"My caregiver at that time encouraged me a lot. Finally, she helped me to get on the train in Shanghai and my parents picked me up at the station in my hometown," she said about her first solo travel experience.

"I worried a lot about how to go to the restroom and how to take care of my luggage before the trip, but it turned out that everything went well."

In January this year, she came up with the idea of producing vlogs and released her first one about "travel in Guangzhou on wheelchairs" to encourage more people like her to go out because she "did not see many of them on the street".

At the end of the five-minute video, she suggested people using wheelchairs to go together with at least two strong men if they want to visit the Ferris wheel on top of the Canton Tower, a landmark scenic spot in the city.

"There are some stairs from the top of the tower on the way to the Ferris wheel.

"Luckily, I was accompanied by five others and three of them were men. They helped me and my wheelchair to finally get there," she said.

In the dozens of vlogs that she has released so far, Zhao went to work, rode the metro, traveled in Okinawa of Japan, visited China Aid exhibition and took re-examination at hospital.

She also shared her opinions on independent traveling of disabled people in the vlogs.

"I hope people will not consider it a natural thing that disabled people on wheelchairs should go out with others.

"There will be a lot of restrictions if you rely on others. Even their parents or spouses do not always have time," she said in a gentle but firm tone.

According to Zhao, the question that she was asked most when she travels alone is "why don't you have a companion with you given that you have some inconveniences?"

"I think this is a wrong way of thinking. My inconvenience is because of the incomplete accessibility facilities. If the facilities are perfect, there will no longer be any inconvenience for people like me, right?" Zhao said.

However, she was "greatly surprised" when her vlogs started to attract the attention of more people.

A weibo user named shengliang sama said in a comment that: "Seriously I have never seen any disabled person traveling alone on wheelchairs in the last two decades. Your videos can help us know more about the daily life of disabled people and therefore removes prejudices and makes it easier to get along with such people. The videos can even let us know what kind of facilities are needed for disabled people to live in a more convenient way."

"The affirmation and support I received motivated me a lot to produce more vlogs and I intend to put more time on it in future," she said.

To be a vlogger is not an easy job.

Zhao needs to think of a theme for every vlog and prepare the content before shooting any video materials. This part of the work takes four to five hours and another eight to 12 hours is required to edit and produce a five-minute-long vlog.

Besides being a part-time vlogger, Zhao was also a full-time product manager of an internet company.

In a livestreaming lecture on job applications for the disabled people in June, she shared her advice on how to apply for a job, start a career and achieve greater progress through self-learning.

"I sincerely encourage you to enter the society and go to work if you have the aptitude.

"Humans have social needs. When you interact with more people at work, your emotions or thinking might change and you may look forward to a better life or career," she said during the lecture.

Before the lecture, Zhao learnt that some people who don't have disabilities are also interested in watching it, so she surveyed the question they want to ask most. It turned out that many people wanted to know how to get along with colleagues with disabilities.

"I never considered it a problem before. But I think it reflects the absent participation of disabled people in the workplace. That's why people have doubts," she said.

But Zhao believes one deep-rooted reason for this is because there is not enough accessibility facilities and sound policies for disabled people in colleges and universities.

"Some simply give up the chance to receive higher education due to the high cost. I hope things will get better in the future," she said.

Zhao once joked that she hoped the Walt Disney World can one day produce an animated film with a wheelchair princess as the protagonist.

"Just kidding. I once saw a Barbie doll on a wheelchair, but it turned out that she was sitting on a wheelchair due to a temporary wound," she said.

"But it will be a good idea to help people get a better understanding about disabilities from children's toys," she said.

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